The dormant case of the famous Anchorage "hot sauce mom" Jessica Beagley has roared back to life with the revelation that Beagley has been charged with misdemeanor child abuse. The Anchorage Press was first out of the starting blocks with this update, followed quickly by the Anchorage Daily News, which has also separately reported on Russia's interest in the case.
-- Alaska Court System database entry on Jessica Beagley HERE, designated as Case No. 3AN-11-00323CR.
-- Seven-page charging document available HERE
Background: As presented in this previous post, Jessica Beagley first attracted public notice in November 2010 after a November 17th appearance on the Dr. Phil show where her "hot sauce" disciplinary techniques were displayed. Beagley was seeking help in dealing with a difficult Russian adoptee. The accompnaying video showed Jessica requiring her son to drink a negligible amount of hot sauce and hold it in his mouth as punishment for both misbehaving in school AND lying about it. The boy was not required to swallow the hot sauce; after 30 seconds, he was permitted to spit it out. In addition, the video showed the boy being required to take a brief cold shower as part of the punishment.
However, Jessica's husband, Gary Beagley, is also an Anchorage police officer. In addition, it was revealed that the family are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Furthermore, the Anchorage Police Department is also embarrassed by the fact that one of their own, Anthony Rollins, is currently being tried for job-related sexual misconduct. Combined with the Russian interest in this case, all these factors provided a powerful incentive for the system to consider prosecution of Jessica Beagley. So Detective Leonard Torres interviewed Beagley, her husband, Officer Gary Beagley and their six children. Municipal prosecutor Cynthia Franklin found evidence in the detective's report that Beagley's methods of discipline were not reasonable and therefore broke Anchorage child abuse laws, and decided to press charges.
It should be noted that Gary Beagley has not been charged with any crime, and no sanctions have been imposed upon him on the job.
Dispute centers around interpretation of the applicable statute, AMC8.10.030(B)(2) (if the link fails, go HERE and select Title 8 from the menu on the left). The statute 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, which includes the use of a spicy hot sauce in the opinion of the prosecutor. But Beagley's attorney maintains that Jessica Beagley did not break municipal law, because the Beagley children haven't had physical injuries or medical care for injuries.
Russian interest in the case is spawned by the fact that they still consider the Russian adoptee to be a Russian citizen. Adoptions to the United States were halted in 2010, potentially affecting thousands of U.S. families. Three deaths led up to the negotiations, according to an April 2010 report from MSNBC. So the Russians have cited this case to harden their negotiating position. However, when Russia launched an unprovoked invasion of Georgia and amputated the two Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Russians didn't consider that any of the world's business, so the Russians are being hypocritical.
The Bottom Line: The prosecution of Jessica Beagley is being driven by politics. If it wasn't for the national publicity from Dr. Phil, the Russian interest, and the desire of APD to detract from the embarrassing prosecution of one of their own, Anthony Rollins, it's unlikely that this would be a criminal case. It would be limited only to intervention by child protective services.
Comments to the Anchorage Daily News story indicate considerable support for Jessica Beagley. At least two-thirds of comments are favorable towards her, although some condemn the cold shower while accepting the hot sauce therapy. Here's a sampling of typical supportive comments (after the jump):
James Bell Just now
What are they suppose to do? Let the kid run wild? She stated that she has tried other means to discipline and nothing has worked except this.... What is the big problem? This is not damaging at all! Our society has become so bad a discipline that I cant go to the store with out screaming kids running around out of control. It is ridiculous! Just the other day I was at a hair salon & two brothers were pushing each other and they were falling onto my feet... Behavior like this is unacceptable!! I had told my sister & law that has been trying to discipline her 3 year old to use time out and make the sessions longer if the child did not abide by the rules, she stated to me that that was child abuse! That is garbage! Yet she yells profanity at her daughter all day at the top of her lungs & gets nowhere & complains that nothing works. There should be laws forcing parents to control there children instead of threatening them with these kind of things. This generation of kids our going to grow up with out any discipline and become the scumbags that cant hold a job or steal because they have not been taught what is right and wrong... They were taught that they can do what they want when they want without punishment
Amanda Wyckoff Just now:
well, i just got done watching the video, i dont see anything wrong with it, sure hot sauce is spicey, but hey, if soap doesnt work then hot sauce will, and its not like its boiling hot or super spicy, from the looks of the bottle it was some tabasco, and she only put alittle in the kids mouth and he was even allowed to spit it out and wipe his mouth, as for the cold shower, sure they suck, but its been proven that a cold shower actually helps the body, AND he was only in the shower for not even a minute, he just had to say what he did wrong, acknowledge he knew it was wrong and he was able to go on his little way. its pretty simple and easy, and he wasny screaming because he was in pain, he was crying because the water was cold and he didnt like being punished, NO CHILD LIKES TO BE PUNISHED, its a simple known fact, hell when my daughter does something bad all i have to do is frown at her and say 'NO' and she starts crying. all children react differently to punishment. BUT, kids have to learn that there is consequences for misbehaving otherwise the legal systems are just going to be filling up the jail houses faster be kids that havent learned right from wrong because parents are so damned scared to punishe their children for fear of someone thinking its abuse.
amandamcvey Just now:
Forcing a cold shower? Maybe a little too far for me to see merit in it as it is not working and having taken them when water wont heat up I can attest that they are horrible, especially in winter months with drafts. Hot Sauce? My parents did this to me once and I got the point. No one ever accused them of abuse for it either when they spanked me for being disrespectful and rude and not listening and I turned out just fine. I hate that those parents that take things too far make even the slightest form of punishment unacceptable for all parents to use! I want my boys to listen, behave, be honest and respectful of everyone they encounter and if they are not than I should be able to do what is necessary to ensure they stop acting up and behave. Note the word Necessary. That is the key so many miss. It is not necessary to spank a child til they cant sit down, or force them to eat soap when telling a lie but having been spanked to get the point and holding soap in my own teeth a time or two as a kid I can say its not the end of the world or cruel and unusual and unless physical harm occurs often laugh at those that do. If more parents cared enough to punish their kids bad behavior I'd feel better about our society as a whole, and if those that take it to extremes would stop it'd be great for us all
Zog Just now
I don't think most people have watched the video. 1) that child did not cry with the hot sauce; Tobasco sauce is spicy, but not harmful in most situations, and the child had already been used to spicy, which makes it an ineffective punishment, but not torture.
2) Studies show that cold (yes--even Ice cold) in small duration can also be good for people. So once again, not comfortable, but also not torture. It is not waterboarding, which according to many isn't torture either.
3) Since when is punishment supposed to feel good?