Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Fondled were 4 girls in family, Duggars say


SPRINGDALE — Four of the girls Joshua Duggar fondled as a teenager were his sisters, and neither they nor their parents knew he had touched them while they slept until he confessed to his parents, family members told the Fox News Channel.

All family members involved received treatment from “accredited profession­al counselors,” father Jim Bob Duggar told interviewe­r Megyn Kelly of The Kelly File.

The fifth girl was a visitor to the home, Jim Bob Duggar said.

The interview aired Wednesday night. Jim Bob Duggar and his wife, Michelle, said they tried to correct the problem “in the home” for a year after the first confession but took their son out of the home on the day he confessed to fondling a much younger child.

Kelly also interviewe­d Duggar sisters Jill Dillard, 24, and Jessa Seewald, 22, who acknowledg­ed they were touched by their brother. Their full interviews will be aired Friday night, Kelly said during the program.

Joshua Duggar, now 27, did not appear in Wednesday’s report.

“We tried to deal with it in-house, and I think we did the best we could under the circumstan­ces,” Jim Bob Duggar said during the hour-long broadcast.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar also called the release of police records confirming the fondling “illegal,” a claim

disputed by the law enforcemen­t agencies involved, the Arkansas Press Associatio­n and attorneys with expertise in public-document cases involving the state’s Freedom of Informatio­n Act.

“I don’t think [the agencies] had a choice,” said John Tull, a Little Rock attorney who specialize­s in public-record cases. “They had to release the reports. Those records are not closed under FOI. The alleged perpetrato­r had attained his majority at the time it was released, and once his name and all the victims’ names were blacked out, it was subject to FOI.”

The Duggars are stars of the 19 Kids and Counting television show on the TLC cable channel. The show drew 3.6 million viewers as recently as last month. Reruns of the show were pulled by the company after In Touch magazine released a report on May 21 that Joshua Duggar had been subject to a criminal investigat­ion in 2006 regarding his actions in 2002 and 2003. TLC has not announced its plans for the show.

Joshua Duggar resigned as a lobbyist for the conservati­ve

Family Research Council the same day In Touch’s full report appeared.

“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusabl­y for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends,” his statement released that day read.

The 2006 investigat­ion by Springdale police, obtained by the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, began after an anonymous tip was forwarded to state authoritie­s. The investigat­ion concluded that the statute of limitation­s had passed on any applicable charges.

Washington County Juvenile Court Judge Stacey Zimmerman ordered the destructio­n of the Springdale police report after its release. Springdale police complied.

The Washington County sheriff’s office contacted Zimmerman’s office on May 22, the day after the court ordered the destructio­n of the Springdale investigat­ion report, the sheriff’s office said in a statement, “to advise her the Sheriff’s Office also had records about this case and wondered if her order stated for us to destroy our records. It was at that time she advised us she believes even our records are covered under 9-27-309(j) and we shouldn’t reon

lease them on this case.” That section of the law exempts juvenile records from the Freedom of Informatio­n Act.

However, that exemption does not cover records of concluded investigat­ions when the names of the perpetrato­r and the victims are redacted and when the offender has reached adulthood, and in regard to which there are no court orders forbidding the release, said Tom Larimer, executive director of the Arkansas Press Associatio­n.

That understand­ing was echoed by Tull and Brandon Cate of Springdale, who have advised newspapers on public-record cases.

The Washington County sheriff’s office also cited five state attorney general’s opinions going back to 1992, all stating that such records are not exempt. Springdale police had no comment on Wednesday in response to the Fox News show.

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