Content warning: This article contains a discussion of child sexual abuse.
Reality TV personality and anti-LGBTQ activist Josh Duggar, 33, has been found guilty by a jury on one count each of receiving and possessing child pornography. He could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison on those charges.
Prosecutors claim that the images found in Duggar’s possession show minors below the age of 12 and that he “knowingly” downloaded the pictures that showed graphic child sex abuse in 2019.
The Duggar family rose to fame on the TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting, centered on their extreme conservative Christian “Quiverfull” lifestyle. He’s the oldest of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s 19 children and now, at age 33, he already has seven children of his own.
In 2015, accusations that Duggar’s parents helped cover up their son Josh’s alleged sexual abuse of his little sisters came to light.
Duggar was forced to resign from the anti-LGBTQ hate group FRC Action, and TLC canceled the family’s show soon after, and more revelations came out about how his parents thought Christian counseling was enough to reform him.
“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends,” Duggar said in a statement at the time. “I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”
Duggar pleaded not guilty to the child pornography charges, which Gerald Faulkner of Homeland Security Investigations said were “in the top five of the worst of the worst that I’ve ever had to examine.”
Federal investigators traced a download of child porn in 2019 to the IP address associated with the car dealership that Duggar worked at, but they didn’t know who downloaded it. The car dealership was raided and authorities seized computers, including Duggar’s.
Faulkner said that files found on Duggar’s computer showed child sex abuse involving children between the ages of 18-months- and 12-years-old.
He said that Duggar’s computer had a program called Covenant Eyes on it, which is a program popular among conservative Christians that monitors internet usage and reports if the primary user looks at adult content to another user. The intent is to keep people from looking at pornography online. Duggar’s wife Anna Duggar was the person who received those notifications, but Faulkner said that Josh Duggar found a technical work-around to download child porn without alerting his wife.
During the trial, Duggar was released on bail but ordered to stay away from minors, including his own children. He was only allowed to visit his children under his wife’s supervision. He was also banned from accessing the internet and needed to ask a probation officer’s permission to leave his third-party custodian’s home.
His trial started on November 30 and Duggar’s lawyers tried to keep the past accusations of child sexual assault made against Duggar out of the trial. The judge rejected that request.
Family friend Bobye Holt, whose daughter dated Duggar when they were 14-years-old, testified that she ended their relationship when she heard that Duggar had molested four girls under the age of 12 in 2003.
“[Josh] explained that Jane Doe four was sitting on his lap during Bible time and he touched her inappropriately,” she testified in court. “He said it happened that day. On that date, he told us that he touched her vaginal area.” She said Josh admitted in a prayer meeting to having touched the breasts and genitals of three other girls.
“When she was sitting on his lap he put his hand under her pantaloons and under her panties,” she said about another girl. “He told me she snitched on him.”
Holt said that Duggar’s parents “didn’t want to hear it” when she told them.
Duggar’s father also testified and said that he knew what happened, but said that the girls were asleep when he touched them and insisted that “they didn’t wake up.”
“We tried to handle things in-house,” Jim Bob Duggar testified. “It was a very difficult time in our family’s life.”
At the height of the family’s reality show’s success, Josh Duggar cashed in on his fame and became the executive director of FRC Action, a PAC run by the SPLC designated hate group Family Research Council. He appeared at rallies to oppose marriage equality across the country and was a public face for the organization.
In 2013, while working at FRC, he said that his lesbian aunt “chooses” to live a lesbian “lifestyle.” The next year he said that LGBTQ rights threaten children. His mother recorded a robocall at the time that said that anti-discrimination measures let “child predators” threaten “the safety and innocence of a child.”
The first round of child molestation accusations in 2015, though, didn’t stop Duggar from using his platform to attack LGBTQ equality. In 2017, he attacked another underaged girl who had a reality show on TLC: Jazz Jennings.
“What an oxymoron… a ‘reality’ show which follows a non-reality,” Duggar tweeted. “‘Transgender’ is a myth. Gender is not fluid; it’s ordained by God.”
“Every day I experience cyber-bullying, but I keep sharing my story,” Jennings, who was 16 at the time, responded. “Today was no different.”