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FAYETTEVILLE -- A celebrity magazine that published articles detailing molestation allegations against Josh Duggar wants two federal lawsuits against it dropped, citing First Amendment rights.

The lawsuits, one by Duggar and another by four of his sisters, claim that police documents were improperly released to the magazine. Their claims include invasion of privacy, outrage and violation of the right to due process. The sisters are Jill Dillard, Jessa Seewald, Jinger Vuolo and Joy Duggar.

Bauer Media Group, which publishes In Touch Weekly magazine and related social media sites, was given decade-old, redacted investigative police files related to Duggar. The company published articles based on the files.

"It has been uniformly recognized through decades of Supreme Court precedent and lower court decisions that when the press lawfully obtains truthful, newsworthy information, its publication cannot be prohibited or punished," according to court documents.

The motion filed Wednesday is the latest of several that Bauer Media has filed in both lawsuits.

The motion said it's not the responsibility of the company to determine what information could be properly released under the state Freedom of Information Act.

"Even if Bauer Magazine had reason to know the reports should not have been released consistent with Arkansas law, which they did not, the publication of the articles would still be protected under the First Amendment," according to the pleading.

The company maintains there is no basis for the Duggars' claims of invasion of privacy and outrage because there was legitimate public interest in the police investigation because a crime was potentially committed, and interest in how police handled the investigation.

A hearing is set for Friday in which U.S. District Judge Tim Brooks is expected to consider pending motions in Josh Duggar's version of the case, including motions to dismiss various parties and to consolidate the cases.

Brooks has ruled in the sisters' case that the city of Springdale and Washington County should be dismissed as well as county attorney Steve Zega and city attorney Ernest Cate, in their official capacities. Brooks declined to dismiss due process claims against Cate, former Police Chief Kathy O'Kelley and Maj. Rick Hoyt of the Washington County sheriff's office in their individual capacities.

The Springdale and Washington County defendants have similar motions pending in Josh Duggar's lawsuit.

Police investigated allegations of sexual abuse against Josh Duggar in 2006, related to incidents in 2002 and 2003 involving the sisters and at least one other girl.

No charges were filed because of the statute of limitations. The police report didn't come to light until 2015.

However, a Family in Need of Services petition was filed in Washington County Juvenile Court.

The lawsuits contend that police assured the family that information from the investigation and their interviews would be available only to law enforcement, juvenile court and child services personnel.

State Desk on 10/07/2017

Print Headline: Publisher seeks to dismiss suits by five Duggars

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