Family Law

Using hot sauce on boy for 'Dr. Phil' show was bid for attention, not discipline, court rules

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Determining what constitutes “reasonable parental discipline” can be difficult, because this standard is vague, argued an Alaska mom famous for forcing an adopted child to consume hot sauce as a punishment—and a state appellate court agreed.

But that wasn’t the issue in Jessica Beagley’s case, the Alaska Court of Appeals said, because a jury found she inflicted this punishment on her son in an effort to become a participant on the Dr. Phil show. Hence, it wasn’t discipline at all but a bid for publicity and Beagley was appropriately convicted of child abuse under an Anchorage municipal ordinance, the court ruled Wednesday.

“Beagley’s jury was not asked to decide whether Beagley engaged in parental discipline that was unreasonable. Rather, they were asked to decide whether Beagley engaged in parental discipline at all—or whether, as the municipality alleged, she mistreated her son as a ploy to get on national television,” the court wrote. “Because Beagley’s case was litigated this way, we conclude that any potential vagueness in the ordinance’s definition of ‘reasonable parental discipline’ is moot in Beagley’s case.”

In addition to affirming Beagley’s misdemeanor conviction, the court also denied her motion for a new trial due to claimed juror misconduct.

The Associated Press and Alaska Dispatch News have stories.

Related coverage: “Child Abuse Trial Begins for Mom Charged After Sending Video of Hot Sauce Discipline to Dr. Phil” “Hot Sauce Mom Gets Probation”

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