What We Know About Josh Duggar's Pending Sentence for Child Pornography as Defense Vows Appeal

The former reality TV star will become a registered sex offender and faces, at maximum, 20 years behind bars at a sentencing hearing that will likely be held in the spring

After being found guilty Thursday morning in Arkansas of receiving and possessing child pornography, Josh Duggar was quickly taken into federal custody and booked into the county jail. Now his case moves into the sentencing phase: an "elaborate process" governed by a number of guidelines that officials say will likely take some four months.

The next step, according to Clay Fowlkes, acting United States attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, is a pre-sentence report by probation officials.

Fowlkes tells PEOPLE that report — including information about the defendant's past convictions (if any), the level of their offense (on a numerical scale), victim impact and so on — will be issued in approximately 30 to 45 days.

"Then each side will have two weeks to study the report and to make objections," Fowlkes says. "Then after that report is issued, studied, all the objections are filed, that's when we'll really start thinking about what our sentencing recommendation to the court is going to be."

Judge Timothy Brooks, who presided over the two-week trial, will ultimately hand down Duggar's sentence. Brooks told Duggar after he was found guilty Thursday that his sentencing would ideally be scheduled four months away, in April.

The 33-year-old former political activist and eldest son of the 19 Kids and Counting family faces up to 20 years in prison or a $250,000 fine for each of his convictions, though he will technically be sentenced only on the receipt crime as possession of child pornography is a "lesser included offense."

Josh Duggar
Center, from left: Anna and Josh Duggar (with Josh's defense team) enter federal court in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Backgrid

"The sentence will really be on the most serious offense that he was convicted of," Fowlkes says. "Now, the court can consider both charges and the court can consider everything that happened at the trial and everything that will be in the pre-sentence report in fashioning a sentence."

Duggar will also be a registered sex offender. But Fowlkes referred questions about Duggar's detention conditions, including what contact he might be allowed with his seven children, to the U.S. marshals as well as the court and probation officers.

Speaking more broadly about Duggar's convictions, Fowlkes tells PEOPLE it has symbolic value — specifically in the prosecution of child exploitation cases.

"No one is above the law, regardless of how popular they are, how wealthy they are or any of those factors," he says.

"A little over 7 percent of the cases sentenced in western Arkansas in 2020 were either child abuse cases or child pornography cases, but so many of those did not get the attention that they truly deserved from the public," Fowlkes continues.

"So that's one thing that we can say makes this case an important milestone," he says, "because not only does it show that no one is above the law, but it also shows how important these cases are to our district and how this is just one among many child abuse [and] child pornography cases that we brought over the last several years."

Fowlkes, who oversees the U.S. attorney's office that prosecuted Duggar, complimented the efforts of the three prosecutors in the case.

"This work is worth it," he says, adding, "We're determined to expend the resources that are necessary and go above and beyond on these cases to try to protect children. That's what this case really is about."

Josh Duggar mugshot
Josh Duggar. Washington County Sheriff

Fowlkes also had praise for Duggar's defense team, who meticulously combed through the prosecution's case and put forth their own expert to argue Duggar could have been the victim of a "hit and run"-style hack.

"I personally had cases against a couple of those lawyers, and they're good lawyers. … They're dedicated to their work," Fowlkes says.

Even so, "I do think that this case, these defenses — the remote access defense, and the hacking defense, and things like that — frankly, those are defenses that we see frequently. That's nothing new," Fowlkes says.

Immediately after the verdict, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dustin Roberts who helped prosecute Duggar told PEOPLE at a brief press conference that "the entire case was made up on the premise that given a reasonable view of the evidence, there could not be any other conclusion that Josh Duggar did this."

RELATED VIDEO: Audio Revealed from When Josh Duggar Learned He Was Being Investigated for Child Pornography

"They [the defense] took a section of that, the only section of that that they could make some headway, and they tried to exploit it as far as they possibly could," Roberts said. He added, "That's what they had to work with. They did a good job working with the evidence they had."

Outside the courthouse, Duggar's defense team said the case wasn't over. (His parents, for their part, said in their own statement: "Our hearts and prayers are with anyone who has ever been harmed through CSAM [child sexual abuse material] .... As parents, we will never stop praying for Joshua.")

In court on Thursday after the verdicts were read, Duggar's lawyers requested 30 days to file post-trial motions.

"We very much appreciate the jury's lengthy deliberations. We respect the jury's verdict," attorney Justin Gelfand told reporters, "and we look forward to continuing this fight on appeal."

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