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December 9, 2021

How many years and counting might reality TV star Josh Duggar now get after federal jury convictions on two child pornography charges?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this celebrity trial news from the AP: "Former reality TV star Josh Duggar was immediately taken into custody Thursday after a federal jury convicted him of downloading and possessing child pornography." Here is more:

The jury in Fayetteville, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) northwest of Little Rock, found the 33-year-old Duggar guilty on one count each 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 he’s sentenced.... U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks said sentencing will happen in about four months, Fayetteville TV station KNWA reported. “We respect the jury’s verdict and we look forward to continuing this fight on appeal,” said Justin Gelfand, one of Duggar’s defense attorneys.

Duggar and his large Arkansas family starred on TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” until the network canceled the show in 2015 following revelations that he had molested four of his sisters and a babysitter. Authorities began investigating the abuse in 2006 after receiving a tip from a family friend but concluded that the statute of limitations on any possible charges had expired.

Duggar’s parents said he had confessed to the fondling and apologized . At the time, Duggar apologized publicly for unspecified behavior and resigned as a lobbyist for the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. Duggar later apologized for a pornography addiction and for cheating on his wife, calling himself “the biggest hypocrite ever.” The judge in the child porn case ruled that jurors could hear testimony about how in 2003, Duggar admitted to molesting four girls.  A family friend testified that Duggar told her about the abuse.

Federal authorities said they began investigating after a Little Rock police detective found child porn files were being shared by a computer traced to Duggar.  A federal agent testified in May that images depicting the sexual abuse of children, including toddlers, were downloaded in 2019 onto a computer at a car dealership Duggar owned.  Duggar’s attorney argued that someone else downloaded or uploaded the images onto Duggar’s computer.  But the jury wasn’t swayed.

This DOJ press release, titeld "Federal Jury Convicts Former Reality Television Personality for Downloading and Possessing Child Sexual Abuse Material," provides these additional offense details and more of the sentencing specifics:

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Joshua James Duggar, 33, of Springdale, repeatedly downloaded and viewed images and videos depicting the sexual abuse of children, including images of prepubescent children and depictions of sadistic abuse.  Duggar, a former reality television personality who appeared with his family on the TLC series “19 Kids and Counting,” installed a password-protected partition on the hard drive of his desktop computer at his used car lot in Springdale to avoid pornography-detecting software on the device.  He then accessed the partition to download child sexual abuse material from the internet multiple times over the course of three days in May 2019.  The password for the partition was the same one he used for other personal and family accounts.  Duggar downloaded the material using the dark web and online file-sharing software, viewed it, and then removed it from his computer....

Duggar was convicted of receipt and possession of child pornography. His sentencing date has not been scheduled yet.  Receipt of child pornography is punishable by a term of imprisonment of five to 20 years. Possession of child pornography depicting prepubescent children has a maximum penalty of 20 years of imprisonment as well.  A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Though the exact sentencing range that Duggar will now face under the guidelines will depend on a lot of the particulars of his downloading activities, he is now certain to receive a federal prison term of at least five years due to his conviction on a receipt charge.  In addition, because the child porn guideline §2G2.2 has so many significant enhancement, he could be facing a guideline sentencing range of well over decade.  (Some USSC data for Fiscal Year 2020 here shows in Table 7 that the average national child porn sentence was about 8.5 years and the average sentence for child porn in the Western District of Arkansas was a few months over 7 years.  Though the child porn guidelines are quite harsh, they are the guidelines that judges depart down from most frequently.)

December 9, 2021 at 02:03 PM | Permalink


I would like to know the guidelines too - but as you well know (and the data indicates) he will likely receive - as most cp offenders do - many of the SOC's in 2G2.2. There are some issues to note from my perspective - he had a Linux partition and utilized uTorrent and dark web - that conduct is not captured in any SOC's in 2G2.2. In addition, per the testimony, he possessed some of the most vile images/videos on the internet, ones whose names that I won't even list here. And, the alleged sexual abuse of his sisters - there is a lot to unpack here. His guidelines will likely be high - 235-293, but I anticipate a far lesser sentence.

Posted by: atomicfrog | Dec 9, 2021 3:42:58 PM

Re. most-often downward departure: how many of those cases lack indication of contact offense? It would not surprise me at all if judges treat contact offenders (regardless of production of their own CP) and pure downloaders very differently.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Dec 9, 2021 5:00:24 PM

His choice not to plead and history of contact offenses don't bode well for him. Plus he clearly didn't learn his lesson from getting caught on the contact offenses.

Posted by: Jason | Dec 9, 2021 7:32:07 PM

I am a defense attorney. He will get 188.

Posted by: Scott | Dec 9, 2021 8:27:09 PM

Soronel Haetir - see this most recent report from the USSC - published June 29, 2021.


Posted by: atomicfrog | Dec 10, 2021 7:31:39 AM

The pictures were really depraved.

Max him.

Posted by: Federalist | Dec 10, 2021 10:18:11 AM


Thanks, although the report doesn't seem to break down between "aggravating conduct" as a whole and actual in-person contact behavior so far as the rate of downward departure versus within guideline sentences. Even in the universe of aggravating conduct they specify I see a wide gap between unsuccessful enticement (whether of a real or fictional minor) and completed in-person activities yet the report rightly treats both as aggravating conduct. What I mostly get out of this report is that this particular guideline section does a particularly poor job of capturing the nuances of offender behavior.

Although given the near equal split for the aggravated conduct category I do have to suspect someone like Mr. Duggar is among the least likely to get a downward variance (going to trial combined with actual contact, even if that contact is not paired with child porn production).

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Dec 10, 2021 2:09:31 PM

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