Image: Jessica Beagley
Marc Lester  /  AP
Jessica Beagley appears in court on the first day of her trial in Anchorage, Alaska.
updated 8/29/2011 8:03:46 PM ET 2011-08-30T00:03:46

An Alaska woman convicted of punishing her adopted Russian son by squirting hot sauce into his mouth was spared immediate jail time on Monday.

Thirty-six-year-old Jessica Beagley was given three years of probation, a 180-day suspended jail sentence and a $2,500 fine — also suspended — after she was convicted last week of misdemeanor child abuse. Prosecutors say she used a videotape of herself punishing the 7-year-old boy as a ploy to get on the "Dr. Phil" TV show.

Beagley submitted the eight-minute tape for a show segment titled "Mommy Confessions." She said the boy had lied about getting into trouble at school.

Story: Mom convicted of child abuse in hot sauce case

After squirting hot sauce in the boy's mouth for lying, she put him in a cold shower for getting in trouble in school.

Beagley had faced a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $10,000 fine. She and her husband, Gary, an Anchorage police officer, adopted the boy and his twin brother in 2008. The boys were 5 years old at the time and had spent three years in an orphanage.

Before that, their family had lived in a shack and the twins slept on shelves in an armoire. One twin adjusted to his new home in Alaska, but the other exhibited behavioral problems that included lying and urinating on the floor.

Beagley's attorney said his client turned to unconventional forms of punishment when spankings, time-outs and restricting television were ineffective in changing the boy's behavior.

Mom turned to "Dr. Phil" for help
Defense attorney William Ingaldson contended Beagley had reached out to the "Dr. Phil" show for help. The incident that sparked the videotaped punishment occurred at school.

The boy got in trouble for sword-fighting with pencils, and, his mother said, lying about it. Beagley recorded the punishment on Oct. 21, 2010, so she could get on the television show, prosecutor Cynthia Franklin said.

Franklin told the jury it wasn't Beagley's first attempt. After seeing a segment in April 2009 titled "Angry Moms," she contacted the show but heard nothing for a year and a half, Franklin said.

The show eventually called to find out if Beagley was still angry, she said. Beagley submitted audition videos in which she yelled at the boy, but producers said they needed to see her actually punishing her son, the prosecutor said.

That's when Beagley got the video camera 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, Franklin said.

Days later, she was headed to Los Angeles to tape the show that first aired Nov. 17. The episode sparked public outrage in Russia, with some people demanding the boy and his twin brother be returned to their native country.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: ‘Hot sauce mom’ could face one year in jail

  1. Closed captioning of: ‘Hot sauce mom’ could face one year in jail

    >>> with the verdict in the case of a mother who forced her son to drink hot sauce and take cold showers . on tuesday, a jury found that woman guilty of child abuse . aditi roy has the latest on that. aditi , good morning.

    >> it took the three men and three women on the jury one day to convict jessica beagley. at the center of the trial beagley made and sent to the producer ofs of "the dr. phil show," shows her pouring hot sauce down her son's mouth and then making her take a cold shower.

    >> in the case of jessica k. beagley we the jury find the defendant jessica beagley guilty of child abuse .

    >> reporter: the decision came swiftly. after hearing four days of testimony and watching this eight-minute video.

    >> what happens when you lie to me?

    >> hot sauce .

    >> reporter: jurors convicted jessica beagley of misdemeanor child abuse . beagley first drew international attention with this video.

    >> close your mouth. did you swallow it?

    >> reporter: showing her pouring hot sauce down her 7-year-old son's mouth and putting him in a cold shower to punish him for behaving badly .

    >> you are in the shower because you made bad choices. do you hear me?

    >> yes.

    >> reporter: beagley sent the video to producers of the "dr. phil show" and appeared on national television four days later, sparking tears among audience members and uproar among viewers.

    >> the act of videotaping yourself punishing your child in order to try to convince a show to let you on is the abuse.

    >> reporter: prosecutors say beagley reached out to the "dr. phil show" after seeing an episode on angry moms in 2009 , telling producers that she was having trouble with one of the twins she had adopted from russia with her husband. a year and a half later the show's producers contacted beagley and asked her to send video for an episode called "mommy confessions quts "."

    >> id not think the punishment would is not have occurred if "the dr. phil show" had not done that.

    >> during the trial officials from alaska children services and the russia's consulate office visited beagley's home after the show aired and found in evidence of abuse or neglect, leaving the child an his five other siblings in her care.

    >> this is a very good loving family.

    >> reporter: beagley's defense attorney says her punishment of her son was strict but not cruel, according to the letter of the law .

    >> it's a more difficult case the way the law is written in alaska that makes it really tough as a parent to discipline your kids.

    >> reporter: nbc news has reached out to the producers of "the dr. fiphil show" for comment. beagley did not speak to reporters after the verdict. her sentencing is scheduled for next week. she faces one year in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. carl?

    >> aditi roy in los angeles . thanks.


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