Josh Duggar, the Christian activist and star of the 19 Kids and Counting reality show, has been sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for images and videos of children being sexually abused in his possession.
In December, Duggar was convicted after Homeland Security officers raided the car dealership where he worked as part of a federal probe. Legal documents say Duggar received child sex abuse material in 2019 and knowingly possessed images of minors younger than twelve. Prosecutors had asked for the maximum sentence of 20 years, while Duggar’s legal team asked for five years.
“Duggar has a deep-seated, pervasive and violent sexual interest in children,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Dustin Roberts.
“There was significant evidence presented at trial to convince a reasonable jury that Mr. Duggar was physically present during the offense conduct and that he had the mens rea to commit these crimes,” wrote District Judge Timothy Brooks in the 29-page opinion which rejected Duggatr’s plea for another trial. Mens rea is a legal term that means Duggar knew that what he was doing was a crime.
In 2015, Duggar was one of the names in the Ashley Madison leak — a website for married people looking for someone to cheat on their spouses with. Following that leak, Duggar wrote a statement in which he admitted that he had “secretly, over the last several years, been viewing pornography on the Internet.”
Duggar was also accused of molesting five girls when he was a teenager in 2002, four of whom were his sisters. Prosecutors pointed to this as evidence of Duggar’s attraction to children.
Duggar’s defense attorney Justin K. Gelfand asked for mercy.
“If ever there were a defendant standing before this Court who is as committed to never finding himself anywhere close to this situation again, it is Duggar,” Gelfand wrote. “As he moves forward into the next chapter of his life, Duggar continues to have so much good to offer the world.”
Among the evidence prosecutors used for their case against Duggar was the testimony of the mother of one of the children in material Duggar had downloaded. “My daughter is a real person,” she said. “She was horribly victimized to provide this source of ‘entertainment.’ She is exploited anew each and every time an image of her suffering is copied, traded or sold.”
An investigator said one of the videos in Duggar’s collection was among the worst he had ever seen.