Josh Duggar Found Guilty on Child Pornography Charges, Facing Potential 20-Year Prison Sentence
Josh Duggar's fate has been sealed.
A jury on Thursday found the former reality star, political activist and father of seven guilty of two charges of knowingly receiving and possessing child pornography, also known as child sexual abuse material.
He faces up to 20 years of imprisonment and up to $250,000 in fines for each conviction — though, because possession is a lesser included offense, he will technically only be sentenced for the receipt crime.
His sentencing is expected in four months but a date hasn't been scheduled pending a pre-sentence investigation.
Shortly after his conviction, Duggar, 33, was led away in handcuffs by U.S. marshals — and he was seen growing visibly distraught as he paused to speak briefly with his wife, Anna.
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Outside the courthouse, authorities celebrated the guilty verdicts. "A child predator has been brought to justice," said Homeland Security's resident agent-in-charge, Billy Riggins.
"First and foremost, this shows that no person is above the law," Clay Fowlkes, the acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, told reporters beside Riggins.
Duggar's attorneys vowed to appeal but said they "respect the jury's verdict."
Duggar had been on trial in federal court in Fayetteville, Arkansas, since last week with Anna and some family members watching daily from the front row. Dad Jim Bob and others attended Thursday to hear the verdict.
Afterward, they left in a group and did not speak with the press.
By the time the jury began deliberating, prosecutors and the defense had painted two totally separate portraits of Duggar: either he was a sophisticated criminal seeking out depraved content about children or he was a naive local businessman with a homeschooled GED unwittingly exploited by someone else. Jurors had to decide who to believe.
Their verdict comes about two years after Homeland Security agents first searched Duggar's Wholesale Motorcars in 2019, seizing two personal devices and a work desktop that became key to the case.
The 19 Kids and Counting alum was subsequently indicted earlier this year on both of his charges, with prosecutors at his trial showing evidence he had devised an elaborate hidden system on his work computer with which to view the child pornography over three days in May 2019.
In his opening statement to the jury, Assistant United States Attorney Dustin Roberts urged them to "hold [Duggar] accountable."
The prosecution's main witness was James Fottrell, director of the Department of Justice's High Technology Investigative Unit, who personally analyzed Duggar's three devices.
In testimony over three days, Fottrell testified that he found evidence that photos and videos of children (some younger than 10) being sexually abused could have been accessed and then deleted from a separate password-protected operating system on Duggar's work computer.
Fottrell also detailed numerous circumstantial and time-and-place connections that investigators found — a similar password, similar programs, geolocated and timestamped texts and photos — between Duggar's whereabouts and when the illegal material was downloaded and viewed.
Other prosecution witnesses included the Little Rock, Arkansas, police detective who said she first discovered a computer using the IP address at Duggar's car lot was sharing child pornography online. Two Homeland Security agents involved in the search of his business were also called, as were two men who remembered Duggar being tech-savvy and listening to how to install a second operating system on a computer to escape monitoring. An executive from Covenant Eyes, the online "accountability" software program Duggar used, also spoke about its functionality.
In the most emotional testimony from the prosecution's case, longtime family friend Bobye Holt testified that Duggar twice admitted to her — in 2003 and 2005 — that he had molested four Jane Does from when he was 12 to when he was 15. One of the girls was 5. (The defense unsuccessfully tried to block Holt's testimony.)
The defense, led by Justin Gelfand, called only two witnesses but also used their cross-examinations to build a parallel argument: that police were both too sloppy and too slow in investigating child pornography connected to Duggar's car lot which led them to ignore key clues about whether Duggar was hacked or exploited by a former employee or someone else at the business.
"If you like a good mystery, then this is the case for you," Gelfand said in his opening statement, arguing that "the actual forensic trail presents more questions than answers."
Private forensic examiner Michele Bush testified for two days for the defense that she believed the theory of "remote access" was probable and could not be ruled out. Gelfand also noted she was limited in her analysis because law enforcement didn't seize Duggar's work router or other devices at the car lot. (On the stand, the Homeland Security agents said anything not seized was "cleared" via an on-the-scene review and that the router wasn't relevant.)
Bush and Fottrell's dueling testimonies ultimately took up the majority of the trial.
Duggar's arrest was only the latest in a series of personal scandals that rocked his family: The reality show that first made them all famous was canceled in 2015 after a 2006 police report was released revealing he had been investigated for molesting the four younger girls when he was a boy and teenager.
Later in 2015, Duggar also admitted to having a pornography addiction and being "unfaithful" in his marriage.
A spin-off of 19 Kids and Counting that followed his siblings, called Counting On, was canceled after his arrest on the child pornography charges.
In a statement immediately after their son was charged, parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar said: "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 [his wife] Anna and continue to pray for their family."