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A Q&A with William Ingaldson, Counsel for the ‘Hot Sauce’ Mom


Anchorage resident Jessica Beagley  has been charged with misdemeanor child abuse for punishing her adopted 7-year-old son by squirting hot sauce into his mouth and forcing him into a cold shower. Here’s a recent LB post on the case.

Beagley videotaped the punishment and sent it to producers of the Dr. Phil show, which later aired the video on a November segment of the show called “mommy confessions.”

The prosecution of Beagley concluded Monday, and the jury has not yet rendered a verdict. In her closing argument, prosecutor Cynthia Franklin told the jury that Beagley abused the boy to get on national television and that the punishments were extreme and cruel, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

We interviewed William Ingaldson, Beagley’s lawyer, about the case and what prompted his client to resort to this method of discipline. Here’s an edited summary of the interview:

What potential punishment is your client facing?

Up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. We told the prosecutors that if Jessica needs any classes on anger management control or parenting skills, she’d be willing to do that. But the prosecutor wants my client to go to jail.

What prompted her to use this kind of discipline?

Her son suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder, a disorder caused by trauma or neglect in the early stages of a kid’s life. It usually involves kids who have been adopted at an older age. What happens is that children who have this have no ability to form attachments or empathize with other people. When adoptive parents try to treat children with love, these kids get anxious and push away. Normal types of discipline time outs or taking things away from kids don't work.

Isn’t there a better way that Jessica could have dealt with her son’s issues?

I think a cold shower can get your attention. I've heard from other parents who use hot sauce as a disciplinary method. I think it's better than washing your mouth out with soap. It's probably not as bad as some dads who take off their belt or use a stick to spank their kids. Is there a better method [than hot sauce and cold showers]? Sure, because that type of punishment doesn’t work [on children who suffer Reactive Attachment Disorder.] It's common with parents of RAD kids to try escalating types of punishment to cure the behavior, but it only reinforces the behavior. Jessica didn’t understand that at the time.

Still, didn’t taping the punishment only exacerbate the problem?

If she staged this video by intentionally punishing her son, who did nothing wrong, just to get on the show that would be wrong, and she should be prosecuted. But that is not what happened. He had gotten into trouble at school and lied about it. She did send the tape in [to the Dr. Phil show,]  but this was clearly done as a punishment.

Does Jessica feel any remorse or regret about this?

What she wants more than anything is to be a good mom. She feels remorse about the punishment, not because the punishment itself  was necessarily outrageous, but because it didn't work. She feels grateful that these boys are getting professional help now, and she is putting effort into that. This is a nice family.

Does Jessica feel like she deserves any punishment for what she did?

I haven't asked her, but I don't think she deserves punishment. If she does then I think a vast majority of parents deserve equal punishment. The video is troubling to watch, but If you videotaped any child betting punished, it would be horrible to watch.

2011 Aug 23