Friday, May 24, 2013
‘Hot Sauce Mom’ Trial Begins; Opening Arguments Heard
Jessica Beagley, 36, was charged with one count of misdemeanor child abuse after a video showing her punishing her son aired on Dr. Phil.
She made international headlines-an Anchorage mother who punished her adopted son by pouring hot sauce in his mouth and holding him under a cold shower.
Jessica Beagley, 36, was charged with one count of misdemeanor child abuse after a video showing her punishing her son aired on Dr. Phil. Today, a jury heard opening arguments for her trial in district court.
Prosecutors said it was a cruel and unusual punishment with no real purpose while the defense argued it was the last-ditch effort of a desperate mother.
“It’s not pleasant to watch someone get punished, whether for right or wrong reasons,” said defense attorney William Ingaldson, describing the video to the six-person jury. “It's not pleasant. But this isn't about the unpleasant videotape."
This morning, the debate centered on whether to allow testimony from an Alaska Office of Children’s Services caseworker who originally investigated the abuse claims against Beagley.
The caseworker’s verdict? “No maltreatment.”
Municipal prosecutor Cynthia Franklin asked the testimony be barred, and said it would influence the jury in Beagley’s favor.
"It doesn't tell them anything about the case. It tells them what the defense wants them to hear, which is, ‘hey this other agency cleared us so therefore you shouldn't find her guilty of this offense,’” Franklin said.
District Judge David Wallace ultimately ruled to preclude parts of the caseworker’s testimony because the investigation of the Beagley family may be unreliable.
“There’s fifty other kids they were dealing with that day that had issues,” Wallace said. “I mean, I just don't know what standards they imply."
While it’s a misdemeanor charge tried in municipal court, the case continues to attract attention both here and abroad.
Beagley’s son and his twin brother were adopted from Russia when they were five years old.
Both are considered Russian citizens until they are 18, and several Russian media outlets are in Anchorage covering the proceedings.
As the trial continues, members of the defense said the jury could expect to hear from Beagley herself and possibly from her son.