Former reality TV star Josh Duggar was convicted Thursday downloading and possessing child sexual abuse images on your work computer.
A federal jury in Fayetteville, Arkansas, found Duggar, 33, guilty of one count of receiving and possessing child pornography. He faces up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $ 250,000 for each count when convicted.
“We appreciate the lengthy deliberations of the jury, we respect the verdict of the jury, and we intend to appeal,” Duggar’s legal team said in a statement to NBC News.
US Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas Clay Fowlkes said Thursday that more than 7 percent of the cases in his office involve images of child sexual abuse.
“This verdict sends the message that these cases are the top priority for our office,” said Fowlkes. “This verdict also shows that no person is above the law. Regardless of wealth, social status, or fame, our office will continue to seek out all individuals who seek to abuse and victimize children through discharge, possession and exchange. of child pornography. “
Duggar pleaded not guilty to federal charges of receiving and possessing child pornography in Arkansas in April. Federal prosecutors argued that Duggar downloaded a Linux partition onto the laptop to bypass computer software that monitors Internet use.
His activity was found in connection with an undercover investigation involving a file-sharing program, the US Attorney’s Office said. Investigators geolocated the computer in Duggar’s car park and then matched the download times for the images with the times Duggar was in the parking lot.
This includes occasions when Duggar was the “only paid employee on the lot,” the prosecutor’s office said in a news release Thursday.
The evidence presented to the court included records of Duggar’s internet use, which included downloading the images, sending personal messages, and saving images.
Duggar’s defense attorneys denied the allegations during the trial, saying that someone else downloaded the images and that Duggar’s personal devices were free of any illegal material.
In the second week of his trial, Bobye Holt, a friend of Duggar’s family, testified that he confessed to sexually abusing underage girls during a conversation in 2003, according to NBC affiliate KNWA.
Holt told the court that Duggar had informed them that he had touched several girls under his pants and underwear, according to KNWA.
Duggar’s defense filed a petition to remove Holt from the witness list in November, citing the privilege of being a cleric. The filing stated that any statements allegedly made to Holt and her husband were made after Duggar’s father requested their spiritual advice.
Both Duggar’s father and Holt’s husband were elders in their church, according to the petition. Prosecutors objected to the defense’s request, saying in a separate filing that the Holts were among the family’s closest friends.
United States District Judge Timothy Brooks denied the request and ruled to allow evidence of previous sexual abuse allegations against Duggar at trial. Brooks said in his order that the earlier allegations were “evidence of the defendant’s sexual interest in underage children.”
Duggar appeared on a reality show on TLC with his family called “19 Children and Counting” that ran between 2008 and 2015. The show recounted the lives of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 19 children, of whom Duggar was the higher. , and often focuses on the religious beliefs of the family as devout Baptists.
In 2015, following a report by In Touch magazine that he was investigated for sexually abusing his four younger sisters and a babysitter, Duggar released a statement saying he “acted inexcusably” as a teenager. An Arkansas police report indicated that Duggar was investigated in 2006 when he was 18 years old. He was never arrested or charged with any crime.
Also in 2015, following the apparent hack of the Ashley Madison extramarital affairs website, it was revealed that Duggar had frequented the site. He released a statement following reports from The Hollywood Reporter and Gawker saying he was “so ashamed of the double life I’ve been living” and apologized to his wife.
He checked into a rehab center shortly after, according to his mother’s blog at the time.
The Associated Press contributed.