A US woman has been convicted of harm after squirting hot sauce into the mouth of her adopted Russian son as punishment in what prosecutors said was a calculated move to get on a TV show.
The jury returned its verdict in the case of 36-year-old Jessica Beagley of Anchorage.
In closing arguments, prosecutor Cynthia Franklin said Beagley recorded the punishment for a segment of the Dr Phil self-help TV show titled Mommy Confessions.
Beagley’s lawyer William Ingaldson countered that she made the video and went on the show because she was desperate to find help for her son, a Russian orphan with some behavioural problems.
Mr Ingaldon said Beagley turned to unconventional means of punishment, which also included making the boy stand in a cold shower, because traditional methods hadn’t worked.
Beagley recorded the punishment on October 21, 2010.
The eight-minute video shows Beagley confronting her son Kristoff about misbehaving in school and lying, and then pouring hot sauce into the crying child’s mouth and not allowing him to spit it out for more than a minute.
The footage also shows Beagley forcing the screaming boy into a cold shower before sending him off to bed.
“There is no reason in the world why someone has to hurt a child to get on a reality show,” Ms Franklin told the District Court jury in her closing argument.
When the episode aired, it sparked public outrage in Russia, with some demanding that Kristoff and his twin brother, who were both adopted by Beagley and her husband, be returned to their native country.
Ms Franklin told the jury that it wasn’t Beagley’s first attempt to get on the Dr Phil show.
She had seen a segment in April 2009 titled Angry Moms and contacted the show but heard nothing for a year-and-a-half, ms Franklin said. The show eventually called to find out if Beagley was still angry, she said.
Beagley then submitted audition videos, but was told they needed to see more than just yelling at the children: They needed to see her actually punishing her son, the prosecutor said.
That’s when Beagley got the flip-cam ready, made sure there was enough hot sauce on the shelf in the bathroom and recruited her 10-year-old daughter to shoot the video, Ms Franklin said.
Days later, she was on her way to Los Angeles to be on the show, she added.
The episode aired on November 17, 2010.
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