ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Anchorage, Alaska, woman is charged with child abuse because of a "Dr.Phil" TV show appearance in which the audience saw video of her disciplining a 7-year-old son by putting hot sauce in his mouth and forcing him into a cold shower.
The methods chosen by Jessica Beagley were unreasonable, said municipal prosecutor Cynthia Franklin.
The lawyer for the 36-year-old mother said the city is intruding into a family matter.
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"She has not done anything that would warrant a criminal charge for child abuse," said attorney William Ingaldson. "If this hadn't showed up on 'Dr. Phil,' there wouldn't be anybody saying anything about it."
Beagley is pleading not guilty at Friday's arraignment, he said.
"Some people think spanking your child is wrong, and she doesn't even do that," Ingaldson said.
Neither the child in the video nor five other children in the home have been removed by the Office of Children's Services, the Anchorage Daily News reported Friday.
Beagley's husband, Gary Beagley, is an Anchorage police officer. He's not under investigation, said the department spokesman, Lt. Dave Parker.
"Ultimately, a jury will have to decide if that's the case," Parker said.
In the video, Beagley is punishing the boy for "pulling three cards," a reference to three reports from his school of bad behavior.
"We've tried timeouts with (him)," Beagley says in a YouTube video from the "Dr. Phil" appearance. "That is a big joke."
In the video, Beagley goes on to explain that those previous methods of discipline — timeouts, spankings, forced exercise, soap in the mouth — didn't stop the boy from acting out and lying, so she turned to hot sauce.
When she's at her wits' end, the boy gets a cold shower, Beagley says.
Municipal law on child abuse lists several factors in determining what is reasonable parental discipline. One example of unreasonable discipline included in the code is the scalding, branding or burning of a child.
Though the code does not mention hot sauce specifically, the section on burning applies to hot sauce, according to the prosecutor's office.
The Beagley children haven't had physical injuries or medical care for injuries, the defense lawyer said.
The case has attracted the attention of Russian media because the boy and his twin brother were adopted from Russia when they were 5 years old, said Franklin, the prosecutor.
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