WRIGHTSVILLE UNIT: Media access to inmate Hutchens now barred.
The state Correction Department
says it is looking into circumstances of an interview In Touch
weekly reported with Joseph Hutchens,
a former state trooper serving 56 years on child pornography charges. In an interview, Hutchens gave a different account of his talk about 12 years ago with Jim Bob Duggar
and Josh Duggar
about reported molestation of children in the Duggar home. Hutchens, in In Touch's account, said the Duggars three years later gave Springdale police an account of more incidents of molestation than he'd received from them.
Hutchens reportedly told In Touch he might have made a mistake in accepting the Duggars' account that there'd been only one relatively minor incident of inappropriate touching of a sleeping girl. He made no referral of the case, though he was obligated to do so by law. When it finally was reported to authorities, the statute of limitations had expired for consideration of charges, authorities have said.
Today, prison spokeswoman Cathy Frye said in response to a question from me about access to Hutchens, who's in the Wrightsville unit:
The Arkansas Department of Correction has denied all media requests for interviews with inmate Joseph Hutchens. 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.
Frye said she couldn't elaborate.
The Correction Department does have a published policy
for media interviews with inmates.
But prison officials also have broad discretion to deny interviews. They might, for example, take into account potential danger created by a media interviews and publicity about inmates with potentially provocative stories.
Hutchens was quoted extensively by In Touch
. The article said Hutchens was interviewed by an unidentified member of a local law firm and "promised nothing in return for his recollections."
I've requested logs of visitors to Hutchens last week, when the interview took place. It occurred shortly before In Touch reported it had obtained a Springdale police report taken as a result of a 2006 tip from the Oprah Winfrey TV show about allegations of molestations in the Duggar home.
I'm seeking to reach In Touch.
AND MORE DUGGAR NEWS: US weekly reports effort to get a spinoff Duggar reality show
going with some of the Duggar kids, not counting Josh.
UPDATE: The Correction Deprtment provided a letter received from a Little Rock lawyer, Abtin Mehdizadegan of the Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon and Galchus firm, saying Hutchens might have information "relevant to my client's matter." He wanted to arrange an interview and bring recording equipment either with him or Samantha Morris. The letter was described as an "attorney inmate interview request." He did not identify his client, presumably In Touch, though he told me last week, when I learned he was making inquiries relative to the Duggars, that he could not identify his client.
Here's the letter.
Cathy Frye of the Correction Department said Morris interviewed Hutchens May 21. The law firm requested a second visit that was scheduled today. Said Frye:
That visit was denied, however, after we learned that the firm had misrepresented itself to both the inmate and the Arkansas Department of Correction.
Frye did not elaborate on how misrepresentations might have been made to Hutchens. I've sent a note to the lawyer for comment, but he'd told me last week he was getting married last weekend. I've left messages with In Touch.
UPDATE: Lindsey Ferraro replied to my query to In Touch in an e-mail:
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.
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