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Silence led to no case for Duggar

by Chad Day, Doug Thompson | May 23, 2015 at 3:54 a.m.

SPRINGDALE -- An Arkansas State Police corporal who gave Josh Duggar "a very stern talk" in 2003 about the teen's improper sexual conduct started the clock on the time limit for filing any charges, according to police records and Arkansas law.

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The time in which charges could be filed expired before Springdale police received an anonymous tip Dec. 7, 2006, about the same conduct by Duggar, according to a Springdale Police Department report and a prosecutor's reading of state law.

Less than a day after the 2006 police report became public, Joshua James Duggar, now 27, resigned as director of a lobbying organization run by the conservative Family Research Council on Thursday.

A Washington County Juvenile Court judge ordered the report destroyed on Thursday, saying one of the victims is still a minor and that the child's identity might be revealed. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette obtained the report before it was ordered destroyed.

The report disclosed sexual misconduct in 2002 and 2003 involving the fondling of sleeping victims and other abusive acts with five girls.

Although the report did not identify the offender or victims, Duggar apologized in a statement after resigning.

"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," Duggar said in the statement.

Duggar would have been 14 to 15 years old at the time of the events described in the police report. Duggar is the oldest son of former state Rep. Jim Bob Duggar, R-Springdale, and Michelle Duggar, who with their children star in the 19 Kids and Counting reality television series.

That show was pulled from the TLC cable channel lineup indefinitely, the channel announced Friday morning. The show drew 3.6 million viewers as recently as May 5.

In a statement, TLC said it was "deeply saddened and troubled by this heartbreaking situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and victims at this difficult time."

In his statement Thursday, Duggar said he confessed his actions to his parents, "who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life."

The police report shows that Duggar, his father and an elder from their church discussed the conduct with the state police corporal, who is now serving a prison term on child pornography charges. The discussion came after Josh Duggar returned in July 2003 from a three-month stay in Little Rock.

Law enforcement officers are "mandatory reporters" under state law and are obliged by law to inform the Arkansas Child Abuse Hot­line of any sexual misconduct with juvenile victims, according to Amy Webb, spokesman for the state Department of Human Services, and Bill Sadler, state police spokesman. Both said they couldn't comment on the specifics of the Duggar case because of juvenile confidentiality laws.

NO ACTION IN 2003

If a call was made to the hotline in Duggar's case in 2003, no action was taken, police and Washington County court records show.

When the hotline was contacted 31/2 years later by another source, state police and Springdale police investigators called to schedule interviews with witnesses and victims.

The Dec. 7, 2006, hotline call arrived too late, police records show.

Springdale police detective Darrell Hignite "had not been able to locate an offense inside a statute of limitations of three years for sexual assault," read the conclusion of his report.

Washington County prosecutor Matt Durrett on Friday cited Arkansas Code 5-1-109 (a) (2), which states: "A prosecution may be commenced for a violation of the following offenses, if, when the alleged violation occurred, the offense was committed against a minor, the violation has not been previously reported to a law enforcement agency or prosecuting attorney, and the victim has not reached the age of twenty-eight (28) years of age."

Since the sexual abuse allegation had been reported in 2003 to a law enforcement officer, no charges could be filed.

Shortly before Duggar's resignation, Washington County Juvenile Court Judge Stacey Zimmerman ordered the police report be destroyed. The Springdale Police Department complied with the order and destroyed all its records on the case, its spokesman said Friday.

LITTLE ROCK CONNECTION

Josh Duggar's parents sent their son to Little Rock in March 2003 after learning he repeated behavior he had admitted in 2002 and had been disciplined for at that time, according to the police report.

Jim Bob Duggar told Springdale detective Hignite in 2006 that he sent his son to a Christian ministry in "the old Veteran's Hospital in Little Rock." Duggar said he couldn't remember the name of the program, but it involved "hard physical work and counseling."

Michelle Duggar told police that the place her son was sent "was not really a training center" but that Josh went to work for a "guy they knew in Little Rock who is remodeling a building." Asked whether the guy was a mentor, Michelle Duggar replied, "kind of."

Pulaski County assessor's records show the nearly 500,000-square-foot former VA hospital building was purchased by Hobby Lobby in 1998.

The craft-store company then donated the building in 2000 to the Institute in Basic Life Principles, an Illinois-based ministry founded by televangelist Bill Gothard.

Shortly after the institute acquired the building, Gothard began renovating the space, saying it would be used for the Little Rock Training Center, which would house "court-referred youthful offenders in the organization's Bible-based rehabilitation program," according to an April 2000 article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Gothard resigned as president of the institute on March 6, 2014, after being accused of sexual harassment of female employees.

On Friday, a reporter who went to the building was referred to Bob Barth at the institute's office in Illinois. Reached by phone, Barth said a lot of programs were operated out of the building in 2003 but he didn't know whether that included a youth program.

"I can't specifically say what was going on there at that time," Barth said. "Unfortunately, the people who were there at that time are not with the institute anymore.

"The institute has been very supportive of the Duggar family, and we're praying for them," Barth said. "We don't have any comment about what's going on."

Presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife, Janet, also voiced support for the Duggars on Friday.

"Josh's actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, 'inexcusable,' but that doesn't mean 'unforgivable,'" Huckabee said Friday in a statement on his Facebook page. "Today, Janet and I want to show up and stand up for our friends."

STERN TALK

After Joshua returned from Little Rock, Jim Bob Duggar and the elders at his church decided to contact a "Cpl. Hutchins" with the state police, Jim Bob Duggar told Hignite.

The teenager admitted to the officer what he'd done, the Springdale police report said.

"Cpl. Hutchins gave [redacted] a very stern talk about what might happen" if such behavior continued, Jim Bob Duggar's statement to Hignite said.

The corporal told the group of church men that since they "had already put [redacted] through a treatment program, there was nothing else to do."

Joseph Truman Hutchens, now 69, was stationed at Troop L headquarters of the state police in Springdale in 2003 and held the rank of corporal, state police confirmed Friday.

"I found out he was involved when the media called me," said Shane Wilkinson of Bentonville, Hutchens' defense attorney in the former officer's last pornography trial in 2012. "I can't remember him ever bringing that conversation with the Duggars up. So the first I heard about it was when it came out in that report.

"Hutchens was a well-known and respected officer at the time, about the last person anyone would have expected to be involved in anything like this," Wilkinson said.

There is no record of any conversation in 2003 between Hutchens and the Duggars, Sadler said. Given the circumstances outlined in the Springdale police report, there would be no record because no case was opened in 2003, Sadler said.

A request for comment to the Arkansas Department of Correction from that retired corporal, who is now serving a 56-year sentence for repeated child pornography offenses, wasn't returned Friday.

A Section on 05/23/2015

Print Headline: Silence led to no case for Duggar

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