ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Hot sauce is a dinner table option to some parents. But to prosecutors in Alaska, forcing it on a 7-year-old boy as punishment amounts to child abuse.
In a case that has drawn international attention, jurors on Wednesday watched video showing Jessica Beagley squirting hot sauce in the mouth of her adopted son. Her attorney said the boy was punished for lying to his mother about misbehaving at school.
The video was originally aired on a "Dr. Phil" episode and caused a public uproar in Russia where the boy is from.
The footage, along with audio of the boy screaming as he's forced to stand in a cold shower, was shown as part of Beagley's trial Wednesday on misdemeanor child abuse charges.
Prosecutors say Beagley went beyond what would be considered reasonable parental discipline. Her lawyer, William Ingaldson, said she resorted to unconventional disciplinary methods because more traditional forms of punishment had not worked with the boy.
Beagley, along with her police officer husband, adopted the boy and his twin brother from a Russian orphanage after their parents abandoned them, Ingaldson said. The boys were taken there after Russian investigators found their family living in a shack, where the boys slept on shelves in an armoire, he said.
The couple "thought this was their chance to make a difference in kids' lives," the lawyer said. The couple also has four biological children.
Anchorage police were notified about the case after "Dr. Phil" viewers saw the footage, which was submitted as a nine-minute video for a November episode titled "Mommy Confessions." ''Dr. Phil" is a talk show on self-improvement.
The video, made in October 2010, shows Beagley asking the boy what happens when he lies.
"I get hot sauce," the crying boy replies.
The video shows Beagley putting the hot sauce in the boy's mouth and telling him not to spit it out. When he admits to lying, she allows him to spit out the hot sauce.
She then explains to the child that he is going to get in a cold shower for lying about misbehavior at school: wriggling in his seat and sword-fighting with pencils.
The video did not show the child in the shower, but the boy's screams can be heard.
"Listen to your teacher," she says. "You are to do what you are told."