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Jurors shown video during abuse trial of mother

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Jurors in the trial of an American mother accused of abusing her adopted Russian-born son were shown a videotape of her pouring hot sauce into the boy's mouth.

The footage, shot last October for an episode of the television talk show "Dr. Phil" that touched off a furor in the United States and Russia, also shows Jessica Beagley forcing the sobbing 7-year-old boy to stand in a cold shower while she yells at him.

Beagley, 36, faces a single misdemeanor count of child abuse, which was filed after viewers of the "Dr. Phil" show contacted authorities. She faces a maximum of two years in prison if convicted in a trial expected to last about a week.

During opening statements Wednesday in the sensational case prosecutor Cynthia Franklin said the cold water treatment was particularly abusive in Alaska.

She said the prosecution will present testimony from the local water utility about how cold that water would have been.

Beagley's attorney, William Ingaldson, conceded that the video could be disturbing to watch.

The Alaska case, which received widespread attention because it was broadcast on national television, has renewed concern about the fates of Russian children adopted by American parents.

Russian officials had previously threatened to halt all adoptions by U.S. parents unless Washington agreed to a treaty to better regulate adoptions after an American woman sent her 7-year-old adopted son back to Moscow on a plane last year with a note describing him as mentally unbalanced and violent.

The incident compounded anger in Russia over the deaths of 15 Russian-born children as an apparent result of abuse by adoptive American parents in the years since such adoptions began.

Beagley's attorney said his client, who also adopted the boy's twin brother and has four biological children, was a good mother who had been getting little help.

"She's a loving, caring mother. She had a child who had some behavioral problems," Ingaldson said.

Beagley was so desperate for help, he said, that she was willing to endure the "humiliation" of going on the TV show and being berated by the host, Phil McGraw.

Ingaldson told the jury that Beagley and her husband, an Anchorage police officer, have since learned that their son suffers from an emotional disorder called Reactive Attachment Disorder that sometimes afflicts children who were denied proper care in their earliest years.

The boy and his brother had been adopted at age 5 from an orphanage in Magadan, Russia.

More than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by foreigners, mostly Americans, since the 1991 collapse of Communism opened up Russia to the West.

Some U.S. parents have complained that their adopted Russian-born children have emotional, physical or behavioral problems that were not diagnosed or disclosed at the time of adoption and may have been the result of neglect in Russia.

Ingaldson also suggested in his opening statement that Beagley had been encouraged by producers of the Dr. Phil Show to be harsher with son and that she was initially told she was not angry enough to qualify for the "Angry Moms" episode.

The two adopted boys are still living with Beagley and her husband, Ingaldson said.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Johnston)

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