[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
Prosecutors used the opening moments of the child pornography trial against former reality TV star Josh Duggar to introduce shocking claims about the Arkansas-area father’s horrific alleged online activities. As we’ve been reporting throughout the week, Duggar is being tried at the federal courthouse in Fayetteville, Arkansas on two counts of downloading and possessing child pornography.
After jury selection and opening moves, the trial officially began on Wednesday, and some of its early moments have been truly unsettling. This comes one day after federal judge Timothy L. Brooks ruled that jurors in the case can hear evidence about Duggar allegedly admitting to molesting younger girls nearly 20 years ago.
On Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dustin Roberts claimed in his opening statement that Duggar dowloaded child porn content with disgusting video titles like “Daisy’s Destruction,” “Playtoy Sweetie,” and “Pedo Mom.”
Roberts alleged that Duggar obtained the images and videos between May 14 and May 16, 2019 — along with other content, including clips of a 7-year-old girl and a 9-year-old girl “being penetrated” by an adult male. The federal government alleges that the former 19 Kids and Counting star downloaded a second cache of 65 still images of a 7- or 8-year-old girl “exposing her genitals” on camera.
Speaking of that last girl, who appears in a digital file titled “Marissa.zip,” Roberts told the jurors:
“It culminates in her being put in a cage, a dog kennel. Throughout this trial you are going to see images of children, not actors, some as young as seven. These children were being sexually abused, violated and exploited.”
The government’s claim is that Duggar allegedly used peer-to-peer encrypted file sharing software to download the material, which was traced to a Hewlett Packard brand laptop found at the used car lot he owns in the city of Springdale, Arkansas.
Asking jurors to “hold him accountable,” Roberts argued that Duggar allegedly accessed a “dark web” program called BitTorrent to search for and download files from other people from around the world. In an undercover online investigation in May 2019, Arkansas authorities used a specialist police program called Torrential Downpour to search for child abuse material being shared by local computers via BitTorrent.
During that investigation, cops used their program to make several “digital handshakes” with an IP address in northwest Arkansas. After partially downloading two files from that address, local cops tipped off federal investigators, who eventually traced it back to Duggar’s used car dealership, Wholesale Motors, in Springdale.
Roberts went on to claim that upon discovering Duggar, investigators determined he used a piece of software called a Lenix partition to split his computer into two virtual workspaces. One could only be accessed by the password “intel1988” — the same password Duggar allegedly used for his internet banking account, the feds claim. Behind that password-protected area, forensic investigators allegedly found the trove of child pornography.
Roberts and the feds also introduced audio from the day when federal investigators showed up to Duggar’s car lot with a search warrant in the child porn investigation. In that audio, Duggar is “agreeable and responsive, to a point,” as noted by People.
Gerald Faulkner, one of the Department of Homeland Security special agents involved in the case who testified on Wednesday after the trial’s opening statements, claimed that Anna Duggar‘s husband was “calm” with “no visible reaction” after agents arrived at the car lot with their warrant.
Interestingly, Faulkner further claimed that Duggar “spontaneously brought up” the nature of the investigation — without prior information from cops — while sitting in an agent’s vehicle after being detained that day. Agent Faulkner testified:
“Mr. Duggar turned in his chair, facing me and Mr. Aycock, and asked, ‘Is this about someone downloading child pornography?'”
However, as Faulkner admitted on the stand, that was apparently “the only” comment not captured on audio, as agents allegedly turned their recorder on right after that remark. Duggar’s defense attorney, Justin Gelfand, incredulously showed his disbelief about that by asking Faulkner:
“That [comment] was the second before?”
Tasked with trying to provide reasonable doubt to the twelve jurors and four alternates, Gelfand contended that “multiple people” had access to Josh’s work computer, thereby making it uncertain as to who created the partition. Gelfand further claimed that the warrant audio showed Duggar explaining to police that he is “a Mac guy” who was homeschooled, and that he thus lacked the computer know-how to install a partition program on a Windows computer.
The defense attorney also added that the feds allegedly initially traced the BitTorrent IP address to “an unconnected house” near Duggar’s car lot before zeroing in on the TV star.
“This is not Josh Duggar’s house, this is the not the reality star we are excited to investigate. So they did not investigate the house. … This is equivalent of a trial of blood from a murder scene. They didn’t follow it.”
In response, Faulkner claimed that the internet service provider involved in the case had suffered a “record-keeping error” that delayed authorities in investigating Duggar and initially pointed them to the wrong location. Gelfand’s early defense appears to be focused on that apparent error, alleging that investigators missed more prolific sharers of child pornography and are focusing on Duggar due to his high-profile reality TV fame.
According to reports from the courtroom, several of the jurors showed visible disgust as some of the snippets of child pornography were briefly flashed up on monitors throughout the proceedings. The 33-year-old former reality TV star showed “barely a flicker of emotion” throughout the first day of the proceedings, according to DailyMail.com.
Here’s more on the case, from local Arkansas outlet 40/29 News (below):
Duggar faces up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000 if convicted on both counts of downloading and possessing child pornography.
Per People, the trial is expected to last into the middle of next week.
[Image via Washington County Sheriff’s Office]