The original post I wrote Thursday evening, “To Those Celebrating Josh Duggar’s Fall: Congratulations. You Still Lose,” has been shared on Facebook nearly 5,000 times, and viewed tens of thousands of times. I wish to be very careful and thorough with this topic and correct some distortions which I believe have already taken root.
I read the entire 33-page police report that InTouch obtained for their “bombshell” exposé. I read InTouch’s report, along with many other reports covering essentially the same information. I re-read the police report and the other reports just before writing this, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
Before I get into the distortions and my answers to them, I want to go over the things I don’t dispute (and didn’t dispute in my original post), and on which I think we can all agree.
Josh Duggar committed a sexual offense. He did it multiple times.
Some disclosure here: I am not a lawyer. I never attended law school, although I did take the LSAT once and would have been admitted to Mercer Law School in Macon, Georgia had I wished to attend—that and a cup of Starbucks will cost you $5 and it’s worth about the same as my legal advice. However, I do know how to read law, and read it as a reasonable person versus a lawyer, so my argument will be as a reasonable person reading the law.
Here’s the Arkansas law reference.
5-14-127. Sexual assault in the fourth degree
(a) A person commits sexual assault in the fourth degree if the person:
(1) Being twenty (20) years of age or older:
(A) Engages in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual activity with another person who is:
(i) Less than sixteen (16) years of age; and
(ii) Not the person’s spouse; or
(B) Engages in sexual contact with another person who is:
(i) Less than sixteen (16) years of age; and
(ii) Not the person’s spouse; or
(2) Engages in sexual contact with another person who is not the actor’s spouse, and the actor is employed with the Department of Correction, Department of Community Correction, Department of Human Services, or any city or county jail, and the victim is in the custody of the Department of Correction, Department of Community Correction, Department of Human Services, or a city or county jail.
(b)(1) Sexual assault in the fourth degree under subdivisions (a)(1)(A) and (a)(2) of this section is a Class D felony.
(2) Sexual assault in the fourth degree under subdivision (a)(1)(B) of this section is a Class A misdemeanor if the person engages only in sexual contact with another person as described in subdivision (a)(1)(B) of this section.
At the time of the offenses, Duggar was under 20 years of age, therefore the offense falls under Akansas family law, Title 9, Subtitle 3, Chapter 27, Subchapter 3 § 9-27-356, juvenile sex offender assessment and registration. This essentially mimics the law for adults, and at least the 2010 version of the law omits any reference to § 5-14-127 (although it covers sexual assault in the first, second and third degree). The family law outlines the procedures for handling juvenile cases and assigning sex offender status.
Now we’ll look at the statute of limitations on these offenses. Arkansas code § 5-14-127 is a class D felony which carries a 3 year limitation, with the exception that “prosecution can be commenced if the offense was committed against a minor, the offense has not previously been reported to a law enforcement agency or prosecuting attorney, and the statute of limitations has not expired since the victim has reached 18 years of age.”
As a reasonable person, not a lawyer, it would appear to me that the authorities in Arkansas had wide latitude to pursue charges against young Josh, who would have been 18 years old in 2006.
An entry on page 32 of the police report notes that on Wednesday, December 20, 2006, Detective Darrell Hignite planned to fax an affidavit to the Washington County Family In Needs of Services (FINS) office. It also notes that Detective Hignite will forward the same to the Washington County Prosecutor’s Office for review, although “Det. Hignite had not been able to locate an offence [sic] inside of the statue [sic] of limitations of three years for sexual assault.”
At this point the report says that Jim Bob Duggar “lawyered up,” although the attorney he attempted to retain declined the case, along with another attorney. This is where the police report ends.
We have no visibility into what happened after (or if) the case was referred to the prosecutor. Keep in mind that Jim Bob Duggar served in the Arkansas legislature from 1999-2002, and maintained (and still does maintain) a fairly high political profile. He knows many people in politics. In fact, two Arkansas legislators have come to the Duggar family’s aid, the Arkansas Times reported.
Arkansas Sen. Bart Hester said Josh Duggar, who he has known for about five years, has been open and honest about the incident with wife, family and friends. State Sen. Jon Woods, who has known the Duggar family since 2005, said the family had put the issue behind them.
“It’s between the family members and was addressed a long time ago but it’s new to the public,” Woods said. “The family had time to heal and now the public needs time to heal.”
Here is what we do know:
The case was not prosecuted. A juvenile judge ordered the records sealed, as is common in juvenile cases, and they remained sealed until the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette obtained them via a Freedom of Information Act request. Given the high profile of the revelations, Judge Stacey Zimmerman took the extraordinary measure of ordering the records destroyed by the Springdale Police Department.
We also know that the events in the report happened sometime around 2002, when Jim Bob Duggar was preparing a run for the U.S. Senate (in which he lost in the primary).
The incidents were known by only the Duggar family, and a handful of close friends and church members until a letter hidden in a book detailing some of the assaults was found in 2006 by a third party, who wrote an email to Harpo Studios, the producer of Oprah Winfrey’s television show, warning Winfrey that the Duggars “were not what they appear to be.” The Duggars were already in Chicago, where they were scheduled to tape a segment for Winfrey’s show, which producers quickly cancelled.
The same person who emailed Harpo also called the local children’s services hotline, which instigated the police investigation.
Assuming that TLC did any background due diligence at all before signing a contract with the Duggars and giving them their own reality cable show, they could have discovered the reason Harpo Studios cancelled the taping. I have to conclude that either TLC did very little checking, or that the Duggars purposely deceived TLC. I’ll deal with that point later.
We know that information on Josh’s crime was no longer held within the Duggars’ small bubble—it was certainly out in the open for anyone to find, depending on who they talked to. Yet, for nearly 10 years, there were no bombshells, until now.
Now, here is where some may disagree with me (and that’s fine). These are my conclusions.
Josh Duggar committed a crime for which he was not prosecuted, although he could have been. He dodged a bullet.
At this point in time, there is no legal way to prosecute him for it. Even if the Arkansas legislature changed the statute of limitations, and carved out exceptions for juvenile class D felonies, it would be an ex post facto law, which is unconstitutional.
Regardless of what you or I might think of what should happen to Duggar, he has rights, the state has its shot to prosecute, and now it’s way too late. He can’t be placed on a sex offender list, or subject to any penalties related to his crime. Again, I’m not a lawyer, but I’d bet any ten lawyers would give that answer.
Now I’ll deal with Jim Bob Duggar and his obligation to report his son’s crime. A former prosecutor friend of mine said it could be argued either way, which I’ll take to mean it’s not cut and dried. A father has a right to deal with his minor son in the way he thinks best, without an obligation to always call the authorities for every transgression.
I believe Jim Bob did what he felt was right. He did what I’d do. He kicked the boy out of the house until Josh dealt with the issue and was ready to come home and turn to God. The police report was clear that Josh confessed to his father, apologized to his sisters, and asked for forgiveness. At the time of the investigation, most of the girls barely even remembered the events, because they were generally sleeping, with the exception of one time with other family members present.
Jim Bob inquired into counseling and work-camp options, and rejected the standard offerings because he was told by a friend Josh would have contact with other juvenile offenders and some of those camps work as “finishing schools” for delinquents. Remember that the Duggars home school their children, and offer a very cloistered life compared to most teenagers—this is their right to live as such in America, whether you agree or disagree with their religion or specific theology.
They sent Josh to live with a family friend who closely supervised Josh while giving him Biblical instruction and very hard work. After three months, Josh was ready to return home.
The police report is very specific: every single victim was interviewed and every single one said Josh changed when he returned. He had not sexually assaulted any of them since that time, and the family took measures to separate him from situations where he could repeat his crime.
To me, it appears that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar did the right thing for their son, and for their daughters. You might feel differently—you might think that because of the Duggars’ religion, that their kids should be taken away, or because of their stance on conservative issues with which you may not agree, that they are promoting hate and don’t deserve the same rights as other Americans.
If you think that, you’re wrong. Tolerance means allowing people you don’t agree with to do what they think is the right thing, even if you think it’s wrong for them.
You’re not their judge. We don’t have show trials in America. Society doesn’t get to try people for past crimes (for which they were not prosecuted), and then try their parents and family based on their beliefs. Nobody deserves to have everything they do in life be second guessed by five million armchair quarterbacks.
In order to support a story where things aren’t as the police report describes them, you’d have to believe that the Duggars coached and rehearsed every answer for every child with the police; that they maintained this level of iron-fisted control over a decade without a single child bolting to the world in a tell-all scoop; that they lied repeatedly to the police, to their fans, and to the media.
In two words, to believe that this sad situation was anything other than what the police report and the Duggars describe, you’d have to think the Duggars are evil incarnate. And you have a perfect right to believe that and remain one of the Duggar doubters.
But you’d be dead wrong.
As for TLC, I think Jim Bob Duggar had no obligation to disclose his son’s past to them, unless they specifically asked. If they asked, and he lied, then they can (and will) sue him. Given the Duggars’ character, testified to by many more people who actually know them than the few who tear them down, I say they were truthful. You can disagree, but really, it’s between TLC and the Duggars, so it’s none of your business, or mine.
Here’s the takeaway:
Josh Duggar got away with a crime. However, Josh Duggar has rights too. He can’t legally be punished, regardless of what you think, or what society thinks.
Duggar needs no legal punishment: he’s basically ruined. He’s lost his job, and as a public figure, there’s nowhere he can go without enduring the scorn of people who hate what he did. Apology, repentance or no, grace from God or no, there are human consequences for his actions, and he’s living with them now.
All the talk about “the victims” is mere cover for deeper agendas: take the children from the Duggar home, and consider the Duggars some kind of Branch Davidian-style cult. I’m sure that more distortions will make their way around the Internet. It wouldn’t surprise me if people accused the Duggars of running some kind of sex ranch or other awful crimes.
The Duggars are decent people. Josh Duggar is a decent person who knows the mercy of God (in that he didn’t continue molesting girls and wind up in prison). He will never be the same again.
I say leave him alone and let him heal. Leave them all alone and move on.