Josh Duggar – the 34-year-old former star of the reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting – has been sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison for receiving child abuse material.
Most important points:
- Duggar maintains his innocence
- The eldest of 19 children grew up in an ultra-conservative household and is said to have previously molested four of his own sisters
- Prosecutors allege he had a “violent, sexual interest in children”
Duggar, whose large family led by conservative Christian values was the focus of TLC’s most popular reality show, was convicted of downloading child abuse material onto his work computer.
The eldest Duggar child’s public demise ended Wednesday in U.S. court in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he was sentenced to 151 months in prison.
Prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks to grant Duggar the maximum term of 20 years, arguing in a pre-sentencing court filing that he has a “deep, pervasive and violent sexual interest in children.”
The one-time former star, who is married with seven children, was arrested in April 2021 after a Little Rock police detective discovered that child abuse files were being shared by a computer traced to him.
Investigators testified that images of child sexual abuse, including toddlers, were downloaded to a computer at a car dealership he owned in 2019.
The judge handed down Duggar’s sentence, 12 years and seven months, a day after dismissing a defense motion to quash the guilty verdict on the basis of insufficient evidence or to order a new trial.
Duggar was also convicted in December of possessing child abuse material, but Judge Brooks overturned that conviction after finding it a violation of federal law in the amount of child abuse material received.
Duggar, whose lawyers had demanded a five-year prison term, maintains his innocence.
Defense attorney Justin Gelfand said he is grateful that Brooks refused to serve the full 20-year sentence that prosecutors requested.
“We will file the appeal immediately within 14 days,” Gelfand said.
US attorney David Clay Fowlkes said he was pleased with the verdict.
“While this is not the sentence we asked for, this is a long sentence,” Fowlkes said outside the courthouse.
The Public Demise of Duggar
TLC canceled 19 Kids and Counting in 2015 after allegations that Duggar had abused four of his sisters and a babysitter years earlier.
Authorities began investigating the abuse in 2006 after receiving a tip from a family friend, but concluded that the statute of limitations on any charges had expired.
The oldest child’s parents said he admitted the caress and apologized.
After the allegations resurfaced in 2015, Duggar publicly apologized for unspecified behavior and resigned as a lobbyist for the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group.
Months later, he publicly apologized for cheating on his wife and for a porn addiction, for which he went on to seek treatment.
When seeking a 20-year sentence, prosecutors cited the graphics — and the ages of the children involved — as well as court testimony about the alleged abuse of the Duggar sisters.
His past behavior “provides an alarming window into the extent of his sexual interest in children that the court should consider in sentencing,” federal prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum.
“This past conduct, along with the conduct for which he has been convicted, demonstrates Duggar’s deep-seated, pervasive and violent sexual interest in children, and a willingness to act upon that interest,” the court said. †
Prosecutors also noted that his computer had been partitioned to evade accountability software installed to report activities to his wife, such as porn searches, according to experts.
“There is simply no indication that Duggar will ever take the necessary steps to change this pattern of behavior and address his predilection for underage women,” the prosecutors wrote.
“Duggar accepts that he faces this court for conviction and that this court must impose a fine,” his lawyers wrote. “That is justice. But Duggar also appeals to the discretion of this court to temper that justice with grace.”
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