Video from the "Dr. Phil" television show of an Alaska mother forcing her son to drink hot sauce and take cold showers prompted a police investigation that has led to charges of child abuse against the mother.
Jessica Beagley, a 36-year-old mother of six, was charged with misdemeanor child abuse in an Anchorage, Alaska courtroom today. She was not present at the arraignment. Her attorneys entered a plea of not guilty.
A police investigation began after Beagley appeared with "Dr. Phil" McGraw in November of last year, according to court documents. The segment of the show was called "Mommy Confessions."
Beagley told Dr. Phil about her difficulty disciplining her 7-year-old son. Video showed her at home in Alaska with the boy.
"We've tried a lot of different things to punish the kids," she said on the show.
The mom admits to spanking her child and forcing him to do jumping jacks until he's exhausted. During the show, the boy is being punished for getting "three cards pulled," three infractions at school.
On camera, Beagley is seen pouring hot sauce down the boy's throat as punishment for lying. Beagley, leaning over the boy as he sits on the bathroom counter, says, "don't spit it."
The boy can be heard screaming when Beagley forces him to take a cold shower.
"When [he] gets a cold shower, I am at the end of my rope," Beagley said on the show. "Nothing's gotten the results that I want."
She told Dr. Phil her son is "the biggest stress in my life."
Viewers flooded the Anchorage Police Department with calls after the show aired, police said. The Anchorage Municipal Prosecutor said in court documents that the behavior in the video violates the municipal code protecting against child abuse.
Anchorage Municipal Prosecutor Cynthia Franklin said that the discipline of the boy was "not reasonable," according to court records.
"The stun - the shock - the acute anxiety can also lead to long term type of Post traumatic stress disorder that we often see in criminals who are incarcerated," said Henry Paul, a psychiatrist at Mount Sinai.
"They're good people caught up in a bad situation," Peter Ramgren, one of Beagley's defense attorneys, said. "Child Protective Services has done a complete investigation and found no evidence of abuse of the other children…if they believed it was a dangerous situation they would have removed the children."
"Nothing Jessica has done is criminal. If you give your child food that has hot sauce on it - maybe they eat Mexican food - does that mean its child abuse," said Bill Ingaldson, another lawyer for Beagley.
Beagley's husband is a patrol officer for the Anchorage Police Department. The family is active in the Mormon church. The couple has four biological children and adopted twins from Russia.
The boy seen on the show is still in his parents' custody.
Woman Charged With Child Abuse After Video on 'Dr. Phil' Shows Her Disciplining Son
The family adopted the twin boys when they were five years old, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The boy seen drinking the hot sauce is one of the adopted children. His treatment has sparked further concern about the adoption of Russian children by American families. Last year, a Tennessee woman put the son she'd adopted from Russia on a plane back to his native country, claiming his behavior was so bad she couldn't raise him.
Officials from the Russian consulate visited the Beagley's home, Ramgren said.
"He has been to Beagley's house, been through the house and told me that he thinks they're a good family. He does not want any kids removed from the home home…They're good people and the kids should remain with them," Ramgren said.
Beagley's next court date will be in March. Messages requesting comment from the "Dr. Phil" show were not immediately returned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.