Josh Duggar pleads not guilty to federal child pornography charges following arrest
Josh Duggar pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of child pornography in court on Friday, one day following his arrest.
The hearing, which was held virtually over Zoom in the Western District of Arkansas, began at 11 a.m. CT. Duggar appeared from jail and was seen smiling before the hearing kicked off. He was represented by Arkansas attorney Travis W. Story.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas confirmed the 33-year-old former "19 Kids and Counting" star has been charged with receiving and possessing material depicting the sexual abuse of children.
Duggar is accused of allegedly using "the internet to download child sexual abuse material. Duggar allegedly possessed this material, some of which depicts the sexual abuse of children under the age of 12, in May 2019," a release from the US Attorney's Office states.
Josh Duggar is pictured in a booking image taken April 29, 2021. (Photo credit: Washington County Sheriff’s Office)
Duggar is charged by indictment. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years of imprisonment and fines up to $250,000 on each count.
A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Duggar's charges were not read aloud during the hearing -- a request made by his attorney and granted by the court. His attorney pleaded "not guilty to both counts."
Duggar's attorney is requesting he be released on bond. A trial date for his case was set for July 6, with a pre-trial hearing scheduled for July 1. Prior to trial and based on his request to be released from jail on bond, Federal Magistrate Judge Erin L. Wiedemann informed Duggar's attorneys that if he is eligible for release, he would be required to reside with a third-party custodian.
Wiedemann informed Duggar that he cannot be in the presence of minors if he is released from jail. A hearing set to determine whether he will be released is scheduled for May 5 at 1:30 p.m. CT.
"Given the nature of the charges against him, the court would likely require a third-party custodian that he could reside with and that would ensure compliance with conditions of bond so you all would need to get that line out and inform our probation office of who that person is so they could interview that person," Wiedemann said.
"They also will want to interview Mr. Duggar. They won't discuss your charges Duggar but they will interview you for information to determine whether you're a good person for release, in a residence where they are no minors in the home or that would be visiting unsupervised," the judge continued.
Defense counsel was ordered to propose a third-party custodian to the probation office.
The former reality star will remain in custody pending the May 5 hearing.
The 33-year-old was arrested on Thursday afternoon local time, according to an online profile from the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
Back in 2019, the car dealership where Duggar worked was raided by Homeland Security in connection with an ongoing federal investigation, though it's currently unclear if the raid and his arrest are connected.
Earlier the same week, it was reported that the Duggar household was also raided, though the family denied it.
He's also been previously accused of sexually abusing several of his sisters, as well as a fifth unrelated victim.
Duggar's arrest news comes days after his wife, Anna, announced the couple was expecting their seventh child together.
"This case is being prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims," the US Attorney's Office release continued.
The case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations Fayetteville and the Northwest Arkansas Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.
Reps for the Duggars and "19 Kids and Counting" home network TLC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.