Even before Megyn Kelly interviewed Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar about their son Josh and the child molestation scandal, she weighed in the legality of releasing the police report about the allegations into the public domain.
Josh Duggar, now 27, a member of the family chronicled on TLC’s hit reality show 19 Kids and Counting, has been accused of molesting several women, including his sisters, when he was a teenager. Once the disturbing news surfaced, TLC pulled the show, at least temporarily.
The Duggars told Kelly among other things that after learning of Josh’s wrongdoing, they put safeguards in place to protect their daughters and sent Josh to counseling, but they didn’t call the cops right away.
The police report in question was obtained under the Arkansas Freedom of Information law and published by In Touch Weekly and an Arkansas newspaper. Josh Duggar was never officially charged with a crime.
The soon-to-retire police chief of Springdale, Ark., as well as the city attorney, authorized the release of the report. The police record did not list the names of the victims, but apparently the facts contained therein were specific enough to determine who they were.
FOIA laws in most if not all states put juvenile records under seal, which makes them off limits to the news media or the public in general.
In discussing this issue on The Kelly File with two attorney panelists the night before Fox News aired the Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar interview, Megyn Kelly, herself a former trial lawyer, asserted that after reading the state statute, there was no grey area or loophole.
“It specifically says juvenile records are not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.”
Criminal defense lawyer Mark Eiglarsh agreed: “Fundamental to the juvenile justice system since its inception … is that all proceedings, reports, records shall — meaning must — remain sealed. And while I’m glad we know this information, I am as equally outraged as to how we know it…”
As the discussion continued, Megyn Kelly insisted that “the victims have been revealed and revictimized by intimate details” which could also discourage other sexual abuse victims from coming forward to authorities if officials similarly fail to abide by promises of confidentiality.
“We sealed the records of juveniles in this country, because we made a policy decision that we’re not going to hold their acts against them, unless a judge says we can release them, or they commit a felony for which they’re charged as an adult. Neither of which happened here; that’s the bottom line.”
The other legal panelist, Arthur Aidala, disagreed and maintained that there was some basis for releasing the report given FOIA exceptions carved out by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I don’t see how this police chief avoids answering for what she did,” Megyn Kelly concluded, however.
Last September, a St. Louis judge denied news media requests to unseal the juvenile records, if any, of Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson; the case is on appeal.
[Photo by Getty Images Entertainment]