Josh Duggar, the former TLC reality TV show star and advocate for family values, was indicted today for receiving and possessing child pornography.
In a court appearance today over Zoom, Duggar, who’s 33, pleaded not guilty to both charges.
According to a federal indictment, Duggar downloaded child pornography from the Internet between May 14 and May 16, 2019. Some of the videos he allegedly downloaded included children under 12 years old.
Duggar was a star on TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting,” where he appeared alongside his Christian parents and their 18 children. He later worked as the executive director of the Family Research Council.
Duggar is a married man with six children and a pregnant wife.
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The charges filed against Duggar today are federal charges because the pornography crossed state lines. For each charge, Duggar faces 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release emailed to The Roys Report.
Duggar’s lawyers said in a press release email that they intend to defend his case “aggressively.”
“In this country, no one can stop prosecutors from charging a crime,” said the law firm representing Duggar. “But when you’re accused, you can fight back in the courtroom—and that is exactly what Josh intends to do.”
A federal judge set a detention hearing for Duggar on May 5, and a trial date for July 6.
The case is being prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation, the DOJ press release said. Homeland Security Investigations Fayetteville and the Northwest Arkansas Internet Crimes Against Children both investigated Duggar’s case.
Still, it’s unclear whether a November 2019 raid by the Department of Homeland Security was related to Duggar’s charges. When reports of the raid first came out, the Duggar family called them “fake news.”
It’s not the first time Duggar has been accused of sexual misconduct.
In 2015, it was reported that Duggar had molested underage girls as a teenager, including some of his own sisters. The Duggar family learned about Josh Duggar’s abuse in 2002 but didn’t make public for 13 years.
In 2015, the public also learned that Duggar had been a member of Ashley Madison, a website for married people looking for adulterous relationships. In the same year, Duggar checked himself into long-term rehab for pornography addiction.
The family was part of the Independent Baptist denomination, an extremely conservative Christian movement.
The family tells its members to live by a strict set of rules. Women shouldn’t wear pants; women should not have jobs; sex is for procreation; and birth control is forbidden.
Some speculate that the Duggars were also part of the “Quiverfull movement,” a group that has said women are subject to men and it’s the responsibility of women to not tempt men into sexual activity.
The Duggars used material from this group to teach their kids. One worksheet used by the Duggars said sexual abuse was sometimes the victim’s fault for dressing immodestly.
In a statement on their site Friday, Josh’s parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, responded to the most recent charges against their son.
“We appreciate your continued prayers for our family at this time,” they 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 Anna and continue to pray for their family.”
This story has been updated.
Jackson Elliott is a Christian journalist trained at Northwestern University. He has worked at The Daily Signal, The Inlander, and The Christian Post, covering topics ranging from D.C. politics to prison ministry. His interests include the Bible, philosophy, theology, Russian literature, and Irish music.