SPRINGDALE -- Joshua James Duggar, now 27, gave a full and frank account of fondling his victims in his 2003 confession to an Arkansas State Police corporal, according to a witness who contradicts a recent account by the former corporal.
"I'm not saying he is a liar, but my recollection is that Joshua came clean and told everything," the witness said. "I definitely remember telling him before we went that he needed to come clean, and I definitely remember being satisfied that he did that when it was over."
All law enforcement officers are required by state law to report sexual abuse involving minors to the state's child abuse hotline. Joseph Truman Hutchens, the former corporal, expressed regret for not doing so in an interview published Wednesday in In Touch magazine of Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
By the time other authorities were tipped off in 2006 about Duggar's earlier acts, the statute of limitations had expired on any possible criminal charges. Duggar was 15 years old when the last of the acts was committed.
Duggar is the oldest son of television celebrities Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. Their family stars in 19 Kids and Counting on the TLC network. Joshua Duggar's acts came to light in a May 21 article in In Touch. At least 15 sponsors have dropped the TLC show since, and scheduled reruns of the show have been canceled.
Joshua Duggar resigned his position as lobbyist for a group run by the conservative Family Research Council and acknowledged wrongdoing in a public statement May 21.
"I hurt others, including my family and close friends," Joshua Duggar said in his statement.
The magazine's interview quotes Hutchens as saying Duggar admitted wrongdoing involving only one girl at one time. Hutchens said he would have been more likely to make such a report had known other girls were abused. Later investigations identified five victims over a year.
Hutchens, 69, is serving a 56-year prison sentence for distributing, possessing and viewing explicit child pornography.
According to statements Duggar's parents gave in December 2006 to the Springdale Police Department, which investigated the anonymous tip, three people went to State Police Troop L headquarters in Springdale and met with Hutchens in 2003: Joshua Duggar, who was still 15, Jim Bob Duggar, and an elder of the church the Duggars were attending at the time, which was a home study group.
The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette learned the identity of the elder earlier this week. He agreed to an interview Friday but only on the condition his name not be used. The interview was in his home with members of his family present. Jim Bob Duggar declined an interview, but confirmed the identity of the elder by a text message Friday evening. Repeated messages to Joshua Duggar have not been returned.
"I talked to Josh before we went and told him that if he was going to be forgiven, he needed to tell everything, to come clean," the witness said of the 2003 meeting with Hutchens. "Even if you're going to tell 90 percent of it, why leave 10 percent weighing on your conscience and making you feel guilty? What's the use of telling some of it and not all? You should tell it all. He did."
Jim Bob Duggar asked elders of his church for advice. The elders suggested the younger Duggar confess to police but do so after receiving counselling, according to the Springdale Police report. Joshua Duggar was sent to work with a youth program renovating a former Veterans Affairs building in Little Rock for three months. He then went to admit his acts to police after returning in July 2003.
Joshua Duggar, his father and the elder who went with them prayed before they entered a van to go to State Police headquarters, the witness said. There they met Hutchens.
The account Joshua Duggar gave Hutchens included all the details he had given to his parents and church elders about who he touched, every one he touched and exactly how and where on their bodies he touched them, the elder said. The account wasn't explicit in its detail or lurid, but left no room for doubt about exactly what Duggar did, the witness said.
"I was there from the beginning to the end," the witness said.
The corporal took no notes and made no recording, the witness said.
"He didn't even pull out a piece of paper. I remember thinking it was really odd. There was a desk in the room along with some chairs."
The police corporal "told Joshua that since you're from a good family and have a good support group and good friends, he wasn't going to go any further," the witness said. "He did say that if you ever do this again, you'll be taken away or something like that. He definitely didn't raise his voice. He was calm and serious. He repeated that if you ever do this again, you'll be taken away."
Requests for an interview of Hutchens by the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette were declined by the state Department of Correction. Messages requesting Hutchens contact the paper by telephone weren't returned. In addition, the department announced Thursday it's investigating how the In Touch interview was obtained.
"The Arkansas Department of Correction has denied all media requests for interviews with inmate Joseph Hutchens," a department statement said. "We are very concerned about the means used by In Touch Weekly to obtain access to an inmate in our custody. We are therefore investigating what we and the inmate believe to be a serious case of misrepresentation."
In Touch replied with a statement, also on Thursday:
"The interview with Joseph Hutchens was obtained with the approval of the Arkansas Department of Correction. As In Touch has stated in print, the interview was conducted by a local law firm, and Hutchens was promised nothing in return for his cooperation. Both he and the Arkansas Department of Correction were told that he was being questioned by the law firm for a client that was conducting an investigation. He agreed to be interviewed and have the interview recorded. Hutchens' recollection about what he was told by Jim Bob and Josh Duggar ended up contradicting what Jim Bob told the Springdale police in 2006, according to their report. In Touch will continue to investigate the Duggar situation."
In the In Touch interview, Hutchens is quoted: "Josh had inappropriately touched (redacted) during the time she was asleep. He said he touched her through her clothing and he said it only happened one time."
Hutchens said his belief this was a one-time incident influenced his decision not to report it.
"I did what I thought was right and obviously it wasn't," Hutchens is quoted in In Touch. "If I had to do it over again, I would have told him immediately I am going to call the hotline and contacted the trooper that worked those cases and have a full report made. I thought I could handle it myself."
NW News on 05/31/2015