Jessica Beagley, who earlier received national publicity over her November 17th, 2010 appearance on Dr. Phil where it was disclosed she used hot sauce and cold showers as part of her disciplinary repertoire with a fractious seven-year old adopted Russian boy, had her lawyer enter a plea of not guilty to misdemeanor child abuse on her behalf in an Anchorage court on January 28th, 2011. KTUU Channel 2 and the Anchorage Daily News provide the primary media coverage, while the Anchorage Press documented Russian interest in the case two days earlier.
-- Alaska Court System database entry on Jessica Beagley HERE, designated as Case No. 3AN-11-00323CR.
-- Seven-page charging document available HERE
KTUU news video embedded below:
Beagley was not required to be personally present, which may have been a good thing, because according to one of her lawyers, Pete Ramgren, he'd never seen that many cameras in an arraignment for misdemeanor city charges. There were at least four video cameras, including one with a TV crew from Russia, a crew from the Lower 48 rumored to be shooting for the Today show, and reporters from two local news channels. Ramgren claimed there'd be no media circus had it not been for Beagley's appearance on Dr. Phil. Alaska Pride believes the charges are politically motivated, and not only because of the Dr. Phil appearance.
Dispute centers around the cited 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. 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. In contrast, municipal prosecutor Cynthia Franklin found evidence from the investigating detective's report that Beagley's methods of discipline were not reasonable and therefore broke Anchorage child abuse laws, and decided to press charges.
Beagley's husband, Gary Beagley, is an Anchorage police officer. He has not been charged, and there are no reports of any sanctions directed against him on the job by APD. The family are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Only a handful of anti-Mormon remarks have surfaced in the comments section of local media.
Russian TV crews were also present to cover the arraignment. A correspondent says Beagley's case was a shock to Russians and is being closely followed, especially after a case last year when an American woman sent her adopted boy back to Moscow. Adoptions to the United States were halted afterwards, potentially affecting thousands of U.S. families; negotiations between the two governments are taking place. Even though the seven-year-old boy was adopted by an American family, Russia still considers the boy a Russian citizen.
However, KTUU separately reported on January 27th that the adoption agency that helped the Beagleys get their Russian sons stands behind Jessica. Olga Byrnes said, "This is good family. I personally, I met this family numerous times, and I remember them they were very excited about the Russian adoption."