ST. LOUIS – Lawyers for a Missouri doctor who impregnated a 16-year-old Kentucky girl say the doctor's marriage to the girl is valid and a legitimate defense to child pornography charges.
Dr. Ashu Joshi's attorneys contend in recent court filings that enforcement of child pornography laws without a marriage exception is unconstitutional, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Joshi, 47, has pleaded not guilty to charges of receiving and producing child porn, and transporting a minor across state lines for sex. He rejected a plea deal earlier this month that could have meant five years in prison instead of the decades he could face if convicted.
Prosecutors argue the marriage is invalid and an attempt by the St. Louis County doctor to avoid prosecution on the federal charges.
Joshi's wife, Madison Dole, who turned 18 this month, wants the charges dropped, saying there is “nothing illegal about a husband and a wife sharing intimate photos.” The Post-Dispatch does not normally identify victims of child pornography, but Dole agreed to have her name published as she and her lawyer seek to draw attention to the case.
Joshi met Dole while treating Dole's mother. Dole originally wanted to talk to Joshi about becoming a doctor.
Three months after meeting, the couple married in a private Hindu ceremony at a Bowling Green, Kentucky, hotel, Dole said. She said she wanted a family, and wanted to be married before she had one.
Three weeks later, the law changed in Kentucky, outlawing marriage for anyone under 17. A Kentucky judge last month declared the couple legally married.
In a series of legal filings, defense lawyers say that both the private wedding ceremony and the later Kentucky court ruling are valid, and that in “countless'' Facebook messages the couple refer to each other as husband and wife.
They say that although Dole is struggling financially, prosecutors have blocked Joshi's attempts to provide assistance to her and the couple's son, who was born in April. Joshi has barely seen and never held the child. Dole still lives in Kentucky. Joshi has been barred from contact with her while his criminal case is pending.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Lang has responded in filings that the marriage is fraudulent. She said that Dole never mentioned the private marriage ceremony to investigators. Dole told the Post-Dispatch that investigators never asked about a marriage. Whether Dole's mother consented to the marriage is in dispute.
Joshi is due back in court Jan. 10. Prosecutors are asking a judge to jail him until trial, claiming that he violated the conditions of his bond by having indirect contact with Dole through lawyers in Missouri and Kentucky.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported earlier that Joshi was indicted in 2018 on charges of production and receipt of child pornography and transportation of a minor across state lines for sex.