Fox News wrong about release of Duggar police report | Arkansas Blog

Friday, June 5, 2015

Fox News wrong about release of Duggar police report

Posted By on Fri, Jun 5, 2015 at 7:22 AM

click to enlarge screen_shot_2015-06-05_at_7.05.49_am.png

We've said it before here, but national reporting is also disputing Fox News' depiction of release of police reports about sexual molestation in the Jim Bob Duggar family as illegal.

Multiple lawyers have said Springdale and Washington County police agencies were required by the state Freedom of Information Act to release police reports on a 2006 investigation of allegations, with information identifying the victim and the perpetrator redacted.

Here, TMZ lays out the facts for its significant readership.

Last night on Fox, Megyn Kelly went off on a lawyer who attempted to defend the release of information. She and a supporter cited Arkansas law about protecting the identities of sexual assault victims and shielding release of juvenile information

Neither law was violated by the release. Victims were not explicitly identified until the Duggars themselves did it, including by producing abuse victim daughters to talk on TV. Police reports are not juvenile records. Police are mandated to release incident reports of crime, but they must protect the identify of juveniles involved in such reports. They did so. TMZ covered a Springdale response to Kelly's unhinged diatribe in support of the Duggars.

Springdale City Attorney Ernest Cate tells TMZ, the case file was never sealed. The reason — the police report wasn't filed until 2006, 4 years after the molestations began. When the police report was filed, Josh Duggar was 18 ... an adult suspect, and therefore there was no basis for sealing the case.

Cate says he got a Freedom of Information request from a media outlet, and since it was a non-sealed case he was required to release it under the Freedom of Information Act. The names of the minor victims in the police report narrative were redacted. 

click to enlarge JUDGE STACEY ZIMMERMAN: Questions about her actions in Duggar case.
  • JUDGE STACEY ZIMMERMAN: Questions about her actions in Duggar case.
Kelly's main point of response is that Judge Stacey Zimmerman ordered the Springdale police report destroyed.

Zimmerman was wrong. And Zimmerman should be made to stand accountable by judicial discipline officials for her questionable actions in this case. How did the matter about destruction of the case reach her court? And were those with opposing views — Springdale, for example — offered an opportunity to contest the destruction order? Who brought the case? Why did the wishes of one victim take precedence? Other victims might wish that an official record be retained of the state's actions in a molestation case.

That episode was bad enough. But the news that the Washington County sheriff's office had asked the judge whether her order against Springdale applied to them and their parallel report made it worse. Zimmerman apparently gave them an answer that their report, too, was covered. This sounds suspiciously like an ex parte discussion in which the judge issued an advisory opinion, which judges are not supposed to do.

The judicial record in Arkansas is littered with bad decisions by Zimmerman. I hope more will be heard about her ethical conduct in this case.

Happily, the Washington sheriff's office got some advice from better lawyers who said their report must be released and it was.

Zimmerman, whose political association with former Gov. Mike Huckabee helped her rise to a judgeship, in the course of attempting to help people from her political end of the spectrum has only served to lend further ill appearance to the Duggar family. The same for Megyn Kelly. Even Mike Huckabee gets it. He's distanced himself in recent days from his old friends and political supporters.

ALSO: In Touch Weekly, which broke open the story of molestation, coverup and special handling, wasn't impressed by Megyn Kelly's effort to rehab the Duggars. The interview was "full of misinformation" and "critical facts" were withheld, it says. This item was particularly interesting:

Megyn Kelly said that the Duggars “hadn’t gotten a heads-up” about the release of Josh’s police report and the Duggars did not dispute that. But In Touch has obtained documents that show the city of Springdale alerted them before releasing the records. The law does not require the city to alert someone before their records are released pursuant to a FOIA request.

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