Facing Child Porn Charges, Former Reality TV Star Released on Bail

The eldest of the 19 children on the canceled TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” Duggar will be released Thursday from the Washington County Detention Center.

This photo provided by the Washington County (Ark.) Jail shows Joshua Duggar. (Washington County Arkansas Jail via AP)

(CN) — A federal judge on Wednesday granted former reality TV star Josh Duggar’s release from custody following his arrest last week on child pornography charges, calling the decision “a very close call” that includes a number of restrictions to ensure his compliance.

“I’m going to find that the United States has not presented clear and convincing evidence that no release condition or set of conditions would reasonably assure the safety of the community,” said Chief Magistrate Judge Christy Comstock after a four-hour virtual detention hearing.

Duggar, 33, wearing grey and black prison clothing and listening in through a pair of headphones, appeared at his detention hearing virtually from the Washington County Detention Center where he has been detained since his arrest April 29. He pleaded not guilty at his initial appearance Friday morning to the two-count indictment charging him with receiving and possessing child pornography.

Unshaven, Duggar rarely spoke during the hearing except to say that he could hear and see the proceedings, which were occasionally delayed because of technical glitches. As the hearing entered its third hour and Comstock announced a brief recess, Duggar appeared to joke with the judge, saying he has been “sitting on a metal stool” throughout the proceeding with a laugh.

Duggar, of Springdale, Arkansas, faces up to 25 years and fines of up to $250,000 if convicted on each count. A trial date has been scheduled for July 6.

The eldest of the 19 children on the canceled TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” Duggar will be released Thursday from the Washington County Detention Center.

“What I’m going to tell you Mr. Duggar is that this is a very close call,” the judge said “I’ve thought about it a lot in the days leading up to this hearing and I thought about it as I listened to the evidence today. I hope you’re not going to prove my decision wrong.”

Prosecutors say the investigation into Duggar began in May 2019 when a Little Rock police detective identified an IP address assigned to Duggar had been using a peer-to-peer filing sharing network to access known videos of child pornography depicting minors under 12 years-old, and in one instance, a toddler.

The detective was also able to download a zip file containing approximately 65 image files of prepubescent females from the same internet location, which were then sent to investigators with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Internet Crimes Against Children.

HSI Special Agent Gerald Faulkner, who assisted in the investigation, testified Wednesday that one of the images depicted a young female approximately seven to nine years of age “laying on her back using her hands to spread her vagina and knees.” Faulkner went on to say that in his 11 years investigating child exploitation cases, the review of images from Duggar’s case was one of “the top five of the worst I’ve ever had to examine.”

The special agent confirmed that a November 2019 federal raid of the used car lot where Duggar worked as a manager, Wholesale Motorcars, was in conjunction with the investigation into child porn being downloaded on the premises. A HP desktop computer, Macbook laptop and Duggar’s personal iPhone were all seized during that raid.

“What is this about — has somebody been downloading child pornography?” Faulkner said Duggar abruptly asked during the raid, despite not being informed by agents why the search was being conducted.

Prosecutors said a forensic examination of Duggar’s devices showed that the father of six downloaded and viewed images and videos of child pornography at the car lot, and that his desktop computer contained an internet accountability program called Covenant Eyes that helps users monitor internet usage to help online porn addictions.

Defense attorney Justin Gelfand said Duggar’s voluntary surrender of himself last week, along with his deep family roots in the community where he was born and raised, all support the position that he does not pose a flight risk or a danger to the community.

“This is not a defendant that is going to flee. He is also not a danger to the community.” Gelfand said.

Among the restrictions that the judge ordered, Duggar will be placed under home confinement with a third-party custodian, a family friend, and a GPS monitoring device. He cannot possess any electronic devices, including a computer, smartphone or gaming device, and cannot view pornography of any kind. He has also been ordered to stay away from control substances, firearms and minor children.

Duggar can however have contact with his own children as long as his wife, Anna, is present.

Along with Gelfand, Duggar was represented by attorneys Travis Story and Gregory Payne.

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