The former 19 Kids and Counting star has pleaded not guilty and remains in custody pending a bail hearing

By Adam Carlson
April 30, 2021 03:41 PM
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The Duggar family was rocked this week when eldest son Josh Duggar was arrested and accused of possessing child pornography two years ago — a crime that could land him in prison for decades, if he is convicted.

He has denied the allegations, which are the latest startling development in the tumultuous personal life of the 33-year-old former 19 Kids and Counting star.

Here's what we know about the case against Josh, which traces back to 2019, and what his family was doing amid the now-public investigation.

May 2019: 'Allegedly Possessed This Material'

According to a news release from federal prosecutors, Josh "allegedly used the internet to download child sexual abuse material … [he] allegedly possessed this material, some of which depicts the sexual abuse of children under the age of 12, in May 2019."

The indictment against him, reviewed by PEOPLE, specifies those dates further, to between or around May 14 and May 16, 2019, in the Duggars' home state of Arkansas.

November 2019: Homeland Security at Josh's Work

Agents with Homeland Security went to the car dealership where Josh was working in November 2019 as part of an investigation, according to TMZ and Arkansas TV station KNWA.

A Homeland Security spokesperson confirmed the agents' presence to KNWA but did not provide further details of their work or comment on whether Josh was part of the probe.

It was not clear, following Josh's arrest this week, whether his charges were connected to that activity.

November 2019: Duggar Family Addresses Homeland Security Reports

In a statement to PEOPLE at the time, a spokesperson for the family said initial reporting that agents had gone to the Duggar home were untrue.

"We were shocked to see a news report today state that our home was raided by federal law enforcement agencies. This is not true. To the best of our knowledge, it's also not true that any member of our family is the target of any investigation of any kind," the spokesperson said.

They continued: "Living a life in the public's eye has taught us that it is best not to reply to every rumor and piece of 'fake news' that is circulated online. It would be a full-time job if we attempted to do so. However, because of tonight's media coverage we thought it is important to address this rumor with you. Thank you for the love and support that we can always count on in you our fans and friends."

Nov. 27, 2019: Welcoming Sixth Child

Days after reports of Homeland Security's involvement at Josh's office, he and wife Anna Duggar had their sixth child, a daughter.

The couple had previously weathered the fallout from Josh's scandals: first, when reports surfaced in 2015 that he molested five girls when he was a teenager, including two of his sisters.

"Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends," Josh said in a statement at the time. "I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life."

Later in 2015, he admitted to cheating on Anna and to having an "addiction" to internet pornography. He faced criticism from some of his extended family, including Anna's brother.

The couple said they were in marriage counseling the following year and marked their 12-year anniversary in October.

October 2020: Losing a Lawsuit

KNWA reported that an investment company Josh owned lost a real estate lawsuit after missing a court date.

The suit traced back to an ownership dispute over property in Arkansas.

April 23, 2021: A Seventh Child

Anna, 32, announced she is pregnant with the couple's seventh child, a girl. She soon responded to a social media commenter who questioned how the family supported themselves. "Does Josh even work?" the user wrote.

"Yes, my husband is a diligent worker and provides well for our family," Anna replied.

Josh previously worked at the Family Research Council, a Christian lobbying organization based in Washington, D.C., but resigned after his previous molestation case became public in 2015.

April 29, 2021: Josh's Arrest

Josh was arrested by agents with Homeland Security on Thursday, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

April 30, 2021: Initial Hearing and Defense Responds

Josh appeared for his initial hearing, via Zoom, on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas.

His attorney declined to have the judge read the charges against him, though prosecutors said he faces one count of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography.

He pleaded not guilty and remains in custody pending a bail hearing on Wednesday.

If released, he would not be allowed to live with minors, the judge said.

In a statement, his attorneys, Justin Gelfand, Travis W. Story and Greg Payne, said they would challenge the case in court.

"Josh Duggar has been charged in a two-count indictment. He has pled not guilty to both charges and we intend to defend this case aggressively and thoroughly. In this country, no one can stop prosecutors from charging a crime. But when you're accused, you can fight back in the courtroom — and that is exactly what Josh intends to do," his defense said.

In a news release of their own, federal prosecutors said Josh could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison or a $250,000 fine per charge, if convicted.

The investigation is being led by Homeland Security and the Northwest Arkansas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, prosecutors said.

In a subsequent statement, Josh's parents said:

"We appreciate your continued prayers for our family at this time. The accusations brought against Joshua today are very serious. It is our prayer that the truth, no matter what it is, will come to light, and that this will all be resolved in a timely manner. We love Josh and Anna and continue to pray for their family."

Josh's sister Jinger Duggar posted her own statement on social media: "We are disturbed to hear of the charges against Josh. While this case must go through the legal system, we want to make it clear that we absolutely condemn any form of child abuse and fully support the authorities and judicial process in their pursuit of justice."

Listen below to the episode of our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on Josh Duggar.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.