Josh Duggar convicted of downloading and possessing child sexual abuse material

FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas – Former 19 children and count Reality TV star Josh Duggar was convicted on Thursday of receiving and detaining child sexual abuse material.

Duggar was immediately handcuffed after the verdict was read and appeared moved when he was led out of court. He stopped to speak to his wife, Anna, who stood in the front row of the gallery among other family members who hugged.

The verdict is the final fall from grace for Duggar, who has gained widespread fame and a conservative following for his stint on TLC. 19 children and count, who followed the ever-expanding family of his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. Their big housekeeping and ultraconservative beliefs also led to fallout.

Duggar now faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $ 250,000 on each count. He should be sentenced in several months.

Duggar, 33, was charged and arrested in April 2021 before being released on orders to stay in a third party residence without contact with minors except his own children.

Prosecutors said Duggar uploaded video footage and images of children as young as 7 being “raped”, “abused” and “exploited.” Some of the content involved videos of minors engaging in sexually explicit acts.

“We respect the jury’s verdict and look forward to continuing this fight on appeal,” defense attorney Justin Gelfand said outside the courthouse. He added that they planned to appeal “at the appropriate time.”

Assistant US Attorney Dustin Roberts said the prosecution was “not surprised” when the defense chose Tuesday not to call other witnesses who were scheduled to testify.

“The whole case was built on the premise that… given a reasonable view of the evidence, there could be no other conclusion that Josh Duggar did,” Roberts said, adding that the defense had taken parts of the evidence and “tried to exploit as much as they could.

He added that the defense argument regarding remote access did not have the capacity to explain all of the events presented to the jury.

The defense argued that a remote user accessed Duggar’s work computer and viewed illegal content. But prosecutors maintained that Duggar was, in fact, an advanced computer user who used sophisticated software to quietly view and delete child sexual abuse content.

The Duggar investigation began when authorities connected downloads of child sexual abuse material to an IP address in Springdale, Arkansas, in May 2019 – four years after a Fox News interview in which he admitted to having assaulted five girls as a teenager, including his four younger sisters and a family babysitter. During the interview, the family said he and the girls received counseling and did not believe there was a future threat of wrongdoing.

Last week, Homeland Security Special Agent for Investigations Gerald Faulkner said he and other agents, as well as forensic analysts, executed a search warrant at Duggar’s business on the 8th. November 2019 and had grabbed his iPhone 11, HP desktop PC and MacBook Pro. .

That day, Duggar spoke to investigators in their vehicle. The jury heard three audio segments of this nearly hour-long conversation, during which Duggar expressed his familiarity with peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, anonymous browsers, and at one point, a asked if their investigation was about someone downloading “child pornography” – before investigators had even mentioned the nature of their research.

“I’m not denying the guilt,” Duggar told them. “I’m not saying whether or not I’m guilty of accessing inappropriate content at some point in my life.”

During deliberation, the jury asked to hear these specific audio recordings again.

James Fottrell, one of the DOJ’s top forensic investigators specializing in combating child exploitation, said he discovered a Linux partition on Duggar’s HP desktop, which essentially “splits” it in half. separate operating systems that may escape software detection programs. Someone should have been physically at the office telling the computer to install and start the Linux system, Fottrell said, in addition to setting up applications that are not preinstalled on Linux, including anonymous browsers and a media player he found. on the computer.

Fottrell said it found thumbnails in several files that depicted child sexual abuse material. In one file, he testified to having found “several images of an underage girl aged 8 to 10” which were “very sexually explicit”.

“The existence of thumbnails is proof that full-size versions previously existed on the computer,” Fottrell told the court.

He then told the court that he examined the backup of Duggar’s old iPhone on the laptop to discern that Duggar was in the parking lot when the child sexual abuse documents were uploaded and consulted.

In one case, Fottrell said it found a photo taken on May 14, 2019 of a YouTube video posted on HP’s desktop in the Wholesale Motorcars office. A reflection on the computer screen reveals that whoever sits behind the keyboard is wearing a baseball cap with the Wholesale Motorcars logo on it. The image was taken shortly before the child pornography material was downloaded to the Linux partition of the computer and viewed.

Another photo taken that day shows Duggar on what appears to be a shopping spree with his wife – wearing a baseball cap with the Wholesale Motorcars logo on it. No other employee was working at the parking lot at the time in question, prosecutors said.

In another image, Fottrell said the backup showed that on May 16, a thumbnail of an almost 30-minute video was created just two minutes before a photo of a post-it on the office desk. of Wholesale Motorcars is taken.

“Based on [your] Critic, who was in the parking lot every time child pornography was uploaded? Asked Federal Attorney William Clayman.

“Josh Duggar,” Fottrell told court last week.

But a defense witness, digital forensics expert Michele Bush, said his independent review of the same evidence showed remote access to the HP was “likely.”

She said information about the office’s internet setup, how explicit content was viewed and the method used to install the score and other applications indicated that a remote user was accessing child sexual abuse content. on the HP.

However, during cross-examination, Bush told Clayman that she did not consider the texts and images from the iPhone backup in her analysis.

“I think we pretty much agree on this point,” Clayman said before asking Bush the efficiency and methodology of his investigation. He pointed to potential deviations from the direct Bush testimony she gave on Monday.

She did not testify as to what she and Fottrell agreed to be the “ubiquitous” “Intel1988” password that Duggar uses on his devices – it is the password for the Linux partition and iterations of it. this can be seen in her emails and on the Notes app on her computer, Clayman pointed out.

The prosecution also asked why Bush ignored reports from anti-pornography software Covenant Eyes, which federal investigators found in Duggar’s email.

Duggar and his wife have received reports of “accountability” from Covenant Eyes on mutual internet use. Reports dated April and May 2017 reveal several blocked attempts by Duggar to download the anonymous browser uTorrent, which Fottrell said was found on the Linux partition.

Bush also agreed that the child sexual abuse content was on the computer at one point, responding “yes” to Clayman’s claim that “someone repeatedly downloaded abuse material. child sex repeatedly ”and deleted the content over the course of approximately three days in May 2019..

Duggar’s lawyers argue that he would not have had the technical knowledge to install and use a sophisticated operating system. But on Monday Duggar’s friend Clint Branham testified that the former reality TV star is a “power user” of the computer with more technological knowledge than the average person.

“No one is above the law, whatever their status in society, whatever their wealth, whatever their fame,” US Attorney David Clay Fowlkes told reporters outside the courthouse on Thursday.

He added that in 2020, more than 7% of sentenced cases in West Arkansas were cases of child abuse or child pornography.

“We are in this fight for the long term,” he said.

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