Jessa and Jill Duggar [pictured first from left and third from left, respectively] gave their first interview about their brother Josh’s sexual molestation actions on Friday, picking up where their parents Jim Bob and Michelle left off with Fox News. As the family attempts to save its hit reality show, 19 Kids & Counting, more troubling contradictions, omissions and distortions of fact continue to emerge.
1) The “licensed” counseling details. Jim Bob and Michelle and two of their daughters have stated the girls went through “licensed” counseling, but have not addressed why Jim Bob and Michelle apparently waited FOUR years before getting them into counseling after they had been victims of Josh. They have also refused to discuss that the counseling seems to have occurred only after the Department of Human Services launched an investigation into the family, following the police probe, which ended due to the statute of limitations having expired. Jim Bob and Michelle apparently did NOT get their daughters counseling from at least March 2002 when, according to the police reports, Josh confessed he had committed “4 to 5” separate acts of molestation, through December 2006 when Springdale police turned the case over to DHS. During that time period Josh committed at least SEVEN acts of molestation, according to police reports.
2) Downplaying the molestations as “subtle and mild.” Echoing Jim Bob and Michelle’s characterization of Josh’s actions as “mild touching,” Jessa said: “None of the victims were aware of what happened until Joshua confessed. The extent of it was mild – inappropriate touching on fully clothed victims, most of it while [the] girls were sleeping.” She also added, “In the situations where it happened and the girls were awake they weren’t aware of what was happening. It was very subtle.” But two police reports strongly contradict these assertions. After several instances of Josh sexually molesting sleeping victims, his behavior progressed. According to the police report: “James [Jim Bob] said [redacted, Josh] was reading to [a] five year old …and as she was sitting on his lap he had touched her breasts and vaginal area. James also said that some time during this time frame, his daughter had been standing in the laundry room and [redacted, Josh] had put his hand under her dress.” Fox’s interviewer Megyn Kelly never pointed out that one victim was five-years-old and Josh was 15 at the time of that molestation. The Springdale police report also reveals that Josh molested another awake victim outside the home. According to the report: “They [Jim Bob and Michelle] said that [redacted, Josh] also admitted to fondling [redacted] outside the home on her breasts.”
3) The escalation of Josh’s molestations is troubling to mental health experts and not to be dismissed in the manner Jessa characterized it as, “a young boy in puberty and a little too curious about girls.” Dr. Paula Bruce, a California clinical psychologist, told In Touch about the Duggars: “None of them acknowledged that this is predatory behavior. It’s classic. It’s got dominance and exploitation. The touching that happened when they were asleep and touching when they were awake, it sounds like escalating in violence because it became more forceful. There was an incident in the laundry room. That was showing a pattern of increasing aggression. That’s a pattern of someone who is becoming more sexually compulsive and increasingly so. That’s not the pattern of someone who is resolving their sexual compulsivity.”
Megyn interviewing Jim Bob and Michelle
4) Safeguards. Jim Bob and Michelle have said (and their two daughters echoed) that after they became aware of Josh’s abuse they put “safeguards” in their home. But the Springdale police report reveals that Jim Bob and Michelle first became aware of 4 to 5 separate acts of sexual abuse by Josh in March 2002 and there were more acts of sexual molestation by Josh in July 2002 and March 2003. The parents have not addressed the fact that their “safeguards” repeatedly failed and allowed at least SEVEN instances of sexual molestation during the course of a year. Were the girls upset that they were subjected to ongoing abuse for more than a year with Jim Bob and Michelle refusing to get outside help? Were security measures ramped up after every time Josh committed another act of sexual molestation? As these security measures proved to be ineffective, why did Jim Bob and Michelle wait at least a year before removing Josh from the house for a short period of time? The family was not asked these questions and continues to not fully explain the situation.
5) Jim Bob, Michelle, Jessa and Jill all made a point to say that Josh “paid for his own counseling.” But Jim Bob and Michelle did not admit – and were not questioned – about why Josh apparently did not get counseling from a mental health professional for at least FIVE years after his first four acts of molestation, and only after the Department of Human Services opened an investigation into his activities. Josh admitted to his parents to molesting minor females on multiple occasions in March 2002, July 2002 and April 2003. In December 2006, Jim Bob and Michelle told Springdale police that Josh had been “counseled” in 2003 by a family friend who remodeled homes but was not a licensed mental health professional, according to the police report.
6) The family has continued to give the impression of cooperation with authorities, but fail to offer a detailed explanation of why they did not produce Josh for a police-requested interview in 2008. Josh, 18-years-old at the time of the Springdale police interview, hired a lawyer and refused to be questioned.
Jim Bob and Michelle
7) The family strongly implied that details from the DHS investigation were leaked. Jessa said of talking to DHS: “We did you know, we told them, we were honest. We said here’s what happened and we told them the complete story and my parents said, ‘This isn’t something people are going to blab around, you can tell them, you can trust them. Tell them your story. It’s a safe place to talk.’ Unfortunately not.” The reality is that no details from the DHS investigation or what the victims told DHS investigators have leaked or been reported. Cooperation with DHS is mandatory.
8) Public records spin. Public records obtained by In Touch of a plane used by the Duggars show that it flew to the location of their crisis public relations specialist prior to giving these interviews in an attempt to save their TLC show. A source confirms to In Touch that the Duggars met with their own PR team to create a strategy for the interviews. All of the Duggars attacked the situation with demonstrably false statements against people and entities involved in the case, including Jim Bob’s strong suggestion that the Springdale police chief took a bribe to release the police report. These false statements were left unchallenged by Fox’s Kelly.
9) The family has continued to float the possibility that they will take some legal action against the city for releasing the records. But a deeper analysis of the situation reveals top experts say they have no basis for such action. Reports The Washington Post:
“I don’t think they have a leg to stand on,” said John E. Tull III, a lawyer for the Arkansas Press Association who frequently represents newspapers in cases related to FOIA. “I don’t see any basis for any sort of lawsuit.”
In a response to the Duggar family’s claims on Fox News, Springdale city attorney Ernest Cate released a statement defending the release of the report to In Touch magazine.
“The requested record was not sealed or expunged, and at the time the report was filed, the person listed in the report was an adult,” he wrote. “Any names of minors included in the report, as well as pronouns, were redacted from the report by the Springdale Police Department in compliance with Arkansas law prior to release.”
Tull and other lawyers told The Washington Post that officials in Springdale simply followed FOIA by disclosing the records, which were redacted to protect the victims’ names and gender.
Kelly with the Duggar family.
10) The Duggars have continued to mischaracterize the FOIA-released police reports as juvenile records and say there were “illegally released.” Jessa told Fox: “Freedom of Information Act is not, you can’t FOIA juvenile cases, everybody knows that.” Her characterization of what was released via FOIA is wrong, reports The Washington Post, which also points out that by not releasing the police report city officials would be committing a crime under Arkansas law:
The police investigation did not occur until 2006. By that time, Josh Duggar was already an adult at age 18, so the state code covering the confidentiality of juvenile records would not apply to this case, legal experts have said.
Journalists and advocates for public information consider Arkansas’s open records law to be one of the nation’s best. The Arkansas state attorney general even describes it as one of “the most comprehensive and strongest” public records laws in the United States.
That means that there are very few legal exemptions for public officials to withhold documents. And if officials don’t comply with the law, they can face misdemeanor charges and fines. Just Thursday, for instance, the director of a Little Rock housing authority was found guilty of failing to comply with FOIA.
11) The order to destroy the police record. The order to destroy the police report was entered by Judge Stacey Zimmerman. Neither Fox nor the Duggars have acknowledged that the judge heard only an emergency argument from one side (via a lawyer hired by the Duggars) and no media outlet or other entity challenged the ruling, which many legal experts believe was overly broad and a wrong interpretation of the law. Even Springdale’s police spokesman noted the highly unusual nature of the judge’s decision.
“The judge ordered us… to expunge that record,” Springdale Police spokesman Scott Lewis said, adding that similar records are typically kept indefinitely.
Law professor Michael Johnson, a former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, told In Touch: “The order to destroy all the reports from Springdale Police Department cites Arkansas law that is not relevant. The law Judge Zimmerman uses states law enforcement should not disclose to the public directly or indirectly identifying the victim of a sex crime, but that is not a valid reason for the destruction of a police report.
“By its very nature, destruction is an irreversible decision and it seems odd Judge Zimmerman chose to have the police reports destroyed. I don’t understand why she simply didn’t have the information she felt identified Jane Doe 1 redacted. And, if she wished to go further, why she didn’t have the records sealed pending further investigation."
And one final side note on the interview:
Kelly repeatedly attacked the media for reporting the story, but FOIA documents obtained by In Touch show that Fox also tried to get the police report to report the story AFTER it first came out. Their request was denied.