Judge Releases Josh Duggar from Jail in Child Porn Case
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Josh Duggar Ordered Released from Jail After Feds Allege Reality TV Star Had 65 Child Porn Images, Video of Kids ‘as Young as Toddlers’

Josh Duggar is seen in a Washington County, Arkansas jail mugshot.

After more than three hours of brutal testimony by a Homeland Security agent and others on Wednesday, a federal judge ordered former conservative activist and “19 Kids and Counting” star Josh Duggar released from jail pending his trial for receiving and possessing child pornography. Prosecutors claim that Duggar had dozens of images and a video of minors “as young as toddlers.”

“This is a very close call, and I’ve thought about it a lot in the days leading up to the hearing,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Christy Comstock said.

The judge rejected the proposal of releasing Duggar to his wife and six children.

“I cannot in good conscience send you home,” she said, instead sending him to the custody of friends of the Duggar family who testified at the hearing.

As to whether Duggar posed a danger to the community, the judge acknowledged: “The truth is, I don’t know.”

“Frankly, the victims of your crime, if you committed it, concern the court,” Judge Comstock noted, adding that the propagation of child pornography feeds the market.

Duggar cannot access the internet and must abide by other conditions imposed by the judge. He will formally be released on Thursday.

Though Duggar’s trial is slated for July, authorities previewed some of the evidence through often-grisly testimony by Homeland Security Investigations agent Gerald Faulkner.

According to his testimony, one of the files allegedly downloaded on an HP computer seized from Duggar’s car lot, named DD.torrent, is short for “Daisy’s Destruction,” which Faulkner described as among the “Top Five worst, worst” files he has examined.

Judge Comstack said of that file: “That concerns the court,” along with the number of files and the age of the victims.

Another barely printable file listed in a forensic report shared with the court began with “14yogirl” followed by two vulgar four-letter words for sex acts. Faulkner declined to read the file name into the record, but he said that they were accurate.

The file name was displayed in uncensored form on the Zoom video where the Wednesday hearing was conducted.

Prosecutors sought Duggar’s continued detention since his indictment on Friday on allegations that he received and possessed material depicting the sexual abuse of children under the age of 12. Duggar pleaded not guilty to the two charges that day and sought his release to his pregnant wife and his six children.

Faulkner, who estimated working on more than 1,000 child exploitation cases, testified for an hour and a half during the detention hearing.

According to Faulkner, the investigation began after a Little Rock detective saw the transmission of known child pornography files through the peer-to-peer file-sharing software BitTorrent. One was a video featuring the sexual abuse of “two prepubescent girls,” and the other was a zip file with 65 explicit photographs “consistent with child pornography,” the agent said.

After allegedly tracing the file downloads, authorities obtained and executed a search warrant on Duggar’s car dealership Wholesale Motors in 2019. Faulkner said that he initially told Duggar that the investigation looked for “digital contraband,” not letting on the nature of investigation.

Faulkner also recalled telling Duggar that he was not under arrest and “free to leave.” The agent said that he got more specific after Duggar agreed to be interviewed.

“We eventually summarized our investigation to date that led us to that car lot,” Faulkner said.

When asked a question related to that child pornography investigation, Duggar replied: “I’d rather not answer that question,” according to Faulkner.

During cross-examination, Duggar’s lawyer Justin K. Gelfand said that his client asked to call his counsel, and Faulkner took the phone out of his hand at that moment. The agent acknowledged that this was true.

When asked if Duggar was cooperative, Faulkner answered no in that the reality television star declined to give his password and names of employees to question.

Gelfand pressed that matter further.

“He was polite,” Gelfand said. “He wasn’t violent. He didn’t run away, none of those things, right?”

“That’s correct, sir,” Faulkner replied.

Faulkner said that the HP computer had a copy of the software Covenant Eyes, designed to overcome pornography addiction, but the agent said that he learned the software does not function on the Linux side of the partition. In 2015, Duggar reportedly sought treatment for sex addiction, and prosecutors say that the Covenant Eyes program was supposed to alert his wife if he viewed explicit material.

According to a government exhibit and Faulkner’s testimony, a forensic examination found that this partition was created on the HP computer on May 13, and the Tor browser was installed there on the same day. Short for “The Onion Router,” the Tor browser is an encrypted web-surfing program associated with accessing the so-called dark web.

On May 14, Duggar’s iPhone sent a text at 4:49 p.m.: “Got stuck here and still not free yet,” the agent said.

Minutes later, a Tor user on the Linux partition side of the HP laptop accessed a pornography site associated with rape and child pornography, Faulkner added.

Faulkner acknowledged that he did not have specific evidence that Duggar created the Linux partition or installed the Tor browser.

During rebuttal questioning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dustin Roberts noted that seeing Duggar installing the program would be direct evidence, but Roberts claimed there is was other evidence: The password for the Linux partition ended in the 33-year-old Duggar’s birth year: 1988.

Faulkner agreed that was correct.

Diem Nguyen, who was assigned to Duggar’s case with federal probation office in Fayetteville, testified after Faulkner that the 33-year-old denied ever having any addiction. This was inconsistent with Duggar’s public statements about pornography addiction, Nguyen said. She expressed concern that the friend of the Duggar family chosen to oversee him before trial could have minor children entering their property for piano lessons and unsecured firearms.

Asked if removing those factors would address those concerns about the safety of the community, Nguyen replied: “Quite possibly.”

But Nguyen said she recommended continued detention, not release.

Duggar appeared in similar striped, V-neck prison garb that he wore to his initial arraignment last week.

In the spring of 2015, Duggar apologized—without specifying what he’s sorry for—after reports emerged accusing him of molesting four of his sisters and a babysitter.

“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 told People magazine in May 2015, in a statement thin on details about his conduct. “I confessed this to my parents, who took several steps to help me address the situation.”

When Assistant U.S. Attorney Carly Marshall broached this subject, Duggar’s counsel objected to this as “tabloid” fodder about his client’s conduct as a minor. The judge overruled this objection considering the allegations were never adjudicated and his family address it publicly.

Marshall said that the incident showed Duggar is “capable of hands-on abuse.”

Though Duggar’s counsel said Duggar never tried to flee in 17 months since the raid of his car lot, Marshall noted the situation is different now.

“What was a maybe is now a reality,” Marshall said.

Duggar’s counsel noted that a bail hearing is not a trial and said his client is presumed innocent.

“The truth is, he is not a danger to the community,” he claimed.

If convicted at his upcoming trial in July, Duggar could face a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines on each count. Any actual sentence is likely to be lower under the federal sentencing guidelines.

(Image: Duggar’s mugshot)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks.