In a lawsuit filed today, disgraced reality TV star Josh Duggar alleges that the magazine In Touch Weekly violated his privacy by publishing reports related to the 2007 child molestation case against him for events that occurred over three years prior, when he was 15.
In May 2015, the celebrity tabloid broke the news that Duggar, the eldest son on the former TLC reality show that portrayed the life of an ultra-Christian family, had been investigated for repeatedly sexually assaulting his four younger sisters while they were sleeping.
Additionally, they published reports, including interviews with the Duggars, that indicated the Duggar family was aware of their son's behavior 16 months prior to alerting the police or seeking counseling for their son, "even though the behavior was continuing and growing worse." (The investigation into Duggar was dropped and the case was closed when it was revealed the incident fell outside of the state's statute of limitations. "That's been the biggest regret in all of this," a source told In Touch.)
As a result of the publication's reporting, TLC canceled 19 Kids and Counting two months later.
In Touch obtained the records through a Freedom of Information Act request. But Duggar, who is now 29, says that the release of the records was in violation of an Arkansas law that excludes cases of child mistreatment from FOIA requests.
Duggar claims that the publication misrepresented the law in their FOIA request. He alleges that In Touch wrote in their FOIA request that the records relating to the sexual assault investigation "are not exempted from required disclosure under present interpretations of the [Arkansas Child Maltreatment Act], and it is believed that the Attorney General would concur that the information must be released."
On the contrary, Duggar claims, the Arkansas Child Maltreatment Act states that the records are not subject to FOIA requests. He also maintains that the officers who conducted interviews with the Duggars assured the family that their records would be kept confidential. (Duggar was an adult at the time of the investigation.)
Duggar says that as a result of the publication of the documents left him "subjected to spiteful and harsh comments and harassment on the Internet." In addition to In Touch, he is suing the officers involved in the release of his records, which he says were poorly redacted; Washington County, Arkansas; and the city of Springdale, Arkansas for invasion of privacy and violating his due process rights.
Duggar's sisters filed a similar lawsuit in May, which the Daily Mail reported Duggar has also filed a motion to join. Lawyers for the city have attempted to get the case dismissed. In their motion for dismissal, the attorneys argue that fulfilling a FOIA request does not violate the Child Maltreatment Act, because the scope of the law's exemption is "unclear," and that "the actions of the individual Springdale Defendants in redacting and releasing the police report, as alleged, are clearly consistent with the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act."
"The truly egregious conduct at issue was that of Josh Duggar and not the Springdale Defendants," they state.
In a statement released today and given to Broadly, the city's lawyers said Duggar's claims are "without merit and are false." Referring to the Duggar family's previous attempt to sue the city in 2015 for releasing the investigation records, the legal counsel for the city of Springdale said, "As we stated nearly two years ago, the city takes seriously its responsibilities to the public under the FOIA as well as its obligations to protect the privacy of victims. With this obligation, the city made the family aware of the Freedom of Information Act Request for the police report and kept the family regularly informed of the status of the request prior to the production of the redacted report."
They added, "It is unfortunate that now, at this late date, the Plaintiff has chosen to file a misguided lawsuit against dedicated public servants and seeking damages from public tax dollars."