FILE PHOTO: Josh Duggar, then-executive director of the Family Research Council, speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, August 9, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Frank/File Photo
April 30, 2021
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Joshua James Duggar, the 33-year-old former star of the popular reality TV show “19 Kids and Counting,” appeared in federal court on Friday to face criminal charges that he received and possessed materials that depicted the sexual abuse of children, the U.S. Justice Department said.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas confirmed that Duggar made his initial appearance in federal court and pleaded not guilty to the charges, which allege he obtained the sexually explicit material sometime between May 14 and May 16 of 2019.
The government is seeking his detention, and a hearing on the matter is slated for May 5, the spokesman added. Duggar was arrested on Thursday on the charges.
In a statement, Duggar’s attorneys said they intend to “defend this case aggressively and thoroughly.”
If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in federal prison.
Duggar rose to fame in the TLC reality series about his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, and their 19 children.
The show delved into their religious values and beliefs, including their opposition to birth control, their preference to home-school their children, and their strict rules about dating, which entailed chaperoning their daughters through a courtship and banning them from kissing until marriage.
The show was suspended in 2015, however, after news broke that Josh Duggar had molested five girls, four of whom were his own sisters.
At the time, Duggar worked at the Family Research Council, a Christian fundamentalist group founded by James Dobson.
He resigned from his post at the time and issued a statement admitting to his actions.
“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,” he told People Magazine.
“I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling.”
Duggar never faced criminal charges for those actions.
In 2015, Duggar was also forced to publicly admit he had cheated on his wife, after hackers leaked the names of all of the subscribers to Ashley Madison, a website that encouraged its users to have extramarital affairs.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch in WashingtonEditing by Matthew Lewis and Grant McCool)