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Judge refuses to dismiss Duggar sisters' 'invasion of privacy' lawsuit against police, county

Duggar
Duggar women pose with the family Matriarch, photo share Jun. 10, 2019. |

A federal judge has declined a request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Duggar sisters regarding the release of police records that the reality stars believe was an “invasion of privacy.”

In 2017, Jill, Jessa, Jinger and Joy Duggar filed a lawsuit against the Springdale Police Department and Washington County for releasing private documents in 2015 concerning claims they made as minors against their brother, Josh, who had been investigated for child molestation accusations.

Josh Duggar now faces up to 20 years in prison for allegedly having over 200 images of child porn on his devices of children “ranging from about 18 months of age to 12 years of age.” His trial is set for Nov. 30

The sisters argue in their lawsuit that when they spoke to investigators in 2006 about the molestations, they were assured their statements were legally protected and would only be shared with police and child protective services officials because they were minors.

The four sisters are suing an Arkansas police department and a host of defendants for leaking their private documents.

The sister’s lawsuit was first filed on May 18, 2017, claiming that actions were “hastily and improperly” taken.

The defendants listed in the lawsuit have been narrowed down to Maj. Rick Hoyt of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Springdale city attorney Ernest Cate and former Police Chief Kathy O’Kelley.

The accusations were made under an Arkansas law for outrage, invasion of privacy by intrusion upon seclusion and invasion of privacy by public disclosure of private facts, Fox 24 reported.

The defendants petitioned that the lawsuit be dismissed.

O’Kelley, Cate and Hoyt’s attorney argued that the Duggar sisters’ claims are the same made unsuccessfully by their brother in a past lawsuit that was dismissed.

Judge Timothy L. Brooks of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas ruled on Nov. 4 that “the state-court dismissal of Mr. Duggar’s case has no bearing on this case.”

“Plaintiffs and Mr. Duggar are siblings, but Plaintiffs’ allegations against the City of Springdale and Washington County are factually dissimilar to their brother’s allegations,” the judge was quoted as writing in a court order. 

According to The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, lawyers for the sisters argued that the women hadn’t been identified publicly as victims before records were released. Additionally, one of the sisters was a minor when the documents were released to the media. 

In the lawsuit, the Duggars say In Touch magazine filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2015 to obtain the police files. The Duggars said the magazine published at least eight stories that revealed personal information about them even though Arkansas laws prohibit police from disclosing any information related to sexual misconduct involving children.

As a result, the Duggars’ show, “19 Kids and Counting,” was canceled, and their brother Josh entered a rehab program. The aftermath is not the reason why they’ve filed the lawsuit, the sisters say, noting that they’re doing it to protect the rights of other minors.

The four sisters are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against the city of Springdale, the Springdale Police Department, In Touch and other Springdale authorities because they were “revictimized.” They contend that the information released contained “cosmetic redactions,” which allowed them to be identified as their brother’s victims.

At the time of the media firestorm in 2015, the names of the sisters were never revealed. But Jessa and Jill Duggar identified themselves as two of Josh’s five underage victims in an interview with Megyn Kelly on “The Kelly File.”

The lawsuit confirms that Jinger and Joy were also victims. The identity of the fifth victim, however, remains undisclosed.

The sisters’ case will be heard on Dec. 9. 

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