- A jury in federal court in Arkansas began deliberating Josh Duggar’s fate on Wednesday.
- The former reality TV star is charged with two counts of child pornography.
- Much of the trial has focused on testimony around Duggar’s devices and his aptitude with technology.
Josh Duggar’s child pornography trial drew to a close on Wednesday, as prosecutors and defense attorneys delivered closing arguments in federal court in Arkansas.
The former reality TV star, who rose to fame on TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting,” has pleaded not guilty to receiving and possessing child pornography. The jury began its deliberations Wednesday afternoon.
Six key moments from the trial show the evidence and testimony jurors will have to evaluate while deciding Duggar’s fate:
A minute-by-minute timeline of the activity on Duggar’s devices when child porn was downloaded
Prosecutors called a top government forensics expert to testify about his analysis of the three devices that investigators recovered from Duggar’s car dealership in November 2019: an HP desktop computer, a MacBook Pro laptop, and an iPhone.
James Fottrell, the Justice Department’s High Technology Investigative Unit director, gave the jury a detailed breakdown of the activity occurring on those three devices between May 11 and May 16 of that year, according to BuzzFeed News. For instance, Fottrell testified that Duggar’s cellphone sent a text message on May 15 saying he would be at the car lot until 6 p.m. Just after that message was sent, Duggar’s desktop computer downloaded a file named “Marissa.zip,” which included 65 child pornography images, according to Fottrell.
Similarly, Fottrell said Duggar’s phone sent a message on May 15 saying “I’m on the car lot now.” Just minutes after that text, Duggar’s desktop computer downloaded a number of child sexual abuse files from the peer-to-peer file-sharing network uTorrent.
Fottrell’s testimony threw a wrench in the Duggar team’s efforts to pin the blame for the child pornography on someone else. Duggar’s attorneys have been arguing for months that someone other than Duggar downloaded the child pornography, since his employees had access to the HP desktop computer and to the car dealership’s WiFi.
Emotional testimony describing Duggar’s child molestation confessions
A family friend of the Duggars, Bobye Holt, delivered tearful testimony to the jury about her conversations with Josh Duggar when he was just a teenager, the Daily Mail reported.
Holt testified that Duggar told her in multiple conversations about touching the “private areas” of four of his sisters, whom she referred to as Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, Jane Doe 3, and Jane Doe 4.
Holt said Duggar confessed to touching the girls both over and under their clothes while they were sleeping, and even said he once penetrated a sister’s vagina with his fingers while she sat on his lap as they read Bible stories.
“I still love Josh,” Holt told the court at one point, according to the Daily Mail.
Duggar is not — and has never been — charged with child molestation, but the judge overseeing Duggar’s child pornography trial allowed prosecutors to present evidence of the molestation allegations, saying they were relevant to the current charges.
Arkansas police investigated the child molestation allegations in 2015, and the Duggars have publicly acknowledged the incidents in question. Duggar himself has apologized and said he underwent counseling for his behavior.
A government computer forensics expert explained how Duggar allegedly hid child porn on his work computer
According to People, Fottrell testified that just days before Duggar’s work computer downloaded child sexual abuse material, the computer’s hard drive was split into two components: one public-facing side that appeared business-related and used a Windows operating system, and one password-protected, private side that used a Linux operating system.
Fottrell testified that the Windows side of the computer had an “accountability” software called Covenant Eyes installed, which would automatically detect any pornography and send reports to Duggar’s wife. But the Linux side completely evaded that software, and is where Fottrell found evidence of dozens of child pornography images and videos that had been downloaded, streamed, or even deleted.
Fottrell called one of those videos — which he said showed an infant being tortured — one of the “most offensive” things he had seen in his career. Judge Timothy Brooks ordered the jury to disregard that comment, explaining that it was an opinion rather than a fact, according to People.
Fottrell also testified that the password for the computer’s Linux side was intel1988, a password that prosecutors said Duggar has used on other personal accounts, and which refers to the year Duggar was born.
Eyebrow-raising audio in which Duggar acknowledged his familiarity with the ‘dark web’ and peer-to-peer file sharing
When federal agents executed a search warrant at Duggar’s car dealership, Duggar made the unusual decision to waive his Miranda rights and speak to them for nearly an hour without an attorney present.
Special Agent Gerald Faulkner, from Homeland Security Investigations, testified that even before he or his colleague had asked Duggar any questions, Duggar surprised them with a question of his own.
“What is this about? Has somebody been downloading child porn?” Duggar asked Faulkner, according to KNWA.
Faulkner testified that he and his colleague then turned on an audio recorder, and Duggar spoke candidly about his familiarity with various online software commonly used to access child pornography. Prosecutors played excerpts from the agents’ interview with Duggar, who openly discussed the car dealership’s internet access, peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, and even Tor, a software that allows users to anonymously browse the “dark web.”
KNWA reported that Duggar had said he used Tor to upload photos for the car dealership, but that Faulkner seemed skeptical of that explanation.
“I would not think the ‘dark web’ would be the best place to do that,” Faulkner testified.
Duggar acquaintances testified about his strong tech skills
Prosecutors called multiple witnesses to testify about Duggar’s tech aptitude, which defense attorneys sought to downplay throughout the trial.
One witness, a Walmart cybersecurity expert who said he’d “run in the same circles” as Duggar for 20 years, said he recalled having a number of technology-related discussions with Duggar.
“He was generally what I would consider a power user of computer systems,” Clint Branham testified, adding that Duggar was “comfortable modifying hardware,” KNWA reported.
Jim Holt, the husband of a previous witness, Bobye Holt, also testified that he, Branham, and Duggar had discussed internet filtration in one 2010 conversation.
Jim Holt testified that when the conversation turned to Linux partitions — which separate and isolate a section of a disk or hard drive — Duggar asked Holt, “How would I set that up?”
Investigators have said a Linux partition was installed on Duggar’s desktop computer where child pornography was found. Prosecutors have alleged that Duggar installed the Linux partition so he could download child pornography without being detected by the “accountability software” that reported his internet activity to his wife.
A defense expert speculated that Duggar’s computer was the target of a “hit and run” scheme
Duggar’s defense attorneys, who have said someone other than their client was the real child pornography culprit, called their own expert to testify about Duggar’s devices.
Michele Bush, a private digital forensic examiner, disagreed with much of Fottrell’s testimony, according to People. She testified that someone could have remotely accessed Duggar’s desktop computer and downloaded the child pornography, though Fottrell had previously said that someone would have needed to be physically present for certain activities, including installing the Linux system on the computer.
“The evidence leads me to believe that’s a very viable possibility” that someone else remoted accessed Duggar’s computer, Bush testified. She said the activity on the desktop computer resembled a “hit and run” scheme, where hackers remotely access computers and then abandon them, according to People.
Fottrell sat in the front row of the courtroom, watching Bush’s testimony and displaying visible reactions to her remarks, People reported.
Prosecutors tried to cast doubt on Bush’s credibility, noting her limited experience as a witness in federal court and lack of familiarity with key details about the case, including that the password to the Linux-partitioned desktop computer included Duggar’s birth year.