Prosecutors ask for 20-year sentence for Josh Duggar

This undated photo provided by the Washington County (Ark.) Detention Center shows Josh Duggar. The former reality TV star was immediately taken into custody after he was convicted Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in federal court of receiving and possessing child pornography. (Washington County Detention Center via AP)
This undated photo provided by the Washington County (Ark.) Detention Center shows Josh Duggar. The former reality TV star was immediately taken into custody after he was convicted Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in federal court of receiving and possessing child pornography. (Washington County Detention Center via AP)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Federal prosecutors are recommending Josh Duggar be sentenced to 20 years in prison on his child pornography conviction, while Duggar's lawyers say he should receive no more than five.

Duggar was convicted Dec. 9 of possessing child pornography. U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks is set to sentence him at 9:30 a.m. May 25 in Fayetteville.

Duggar, 34, of Springdale, was charged in federal court with two counts involving receiving and possessing child pornography. The jury found him guilty on both counts after more than six hours of deliberation over two days.

He will only be sentenced on the count of receiving child pornography because possession of child pornography is considered a lesser included offense under federal law.

Duggar faces up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000. He's been held at the Washington County Detention Center since being convicted and while awaiting sentencing.

Both prosecutors and the defense submitted sentencing recommendations to Brooks on Wednesday.

"Government submits that the conduct established at trial supports the application of all contested enhancements and establishes that the offense involved 600 or more images, warranting the application of a five-level enhancement," according to the recommendation.

The recommendation noted what it said were Duggar's prior sexual exploitation of multiple minors, his "exceptional" efforts to obtain and view the material, his efforts to conceal his criminal conduct and his refusal to take accountability for or acknowledge any of his criminal conduct.

"The government recommends the court impose a guideline term of imprisonment of 240 months," the recommendation concludes.

The government contends there should be sentencing enhancements because many of the images Duggar downloaded involved sadistic or masochistic conduct involving children. The government also contends an enhancement is warranted because Duggar has a history of sexually abusing or exploiting minors.

"Duggar argues that the Court should find that these acts of molestation did not occur and that, even if they did, the court should disregard them because they occurred years ago," according to the government. "Contrary to Duggar's claims, however, evidence produced during pretrial hearings and at trial, including the testimony of his father, Jim Bob Duggar, and his long-time family friend, Bobye Holt, reflect that Duggar engaged in the exact conduct he now denies occurred and is more than sufficient to support the application of this enhancement based on a preponderance of the evidence."

The government contends Duggar had more than 600 images of child porn, warranting a sentencing enhancement. The defense contends it was closer to 127. The federal probation office contends Duggar's computer contained 392 unlawful images. A video file is considered the equivalent of 75 still images, according to the government.

The government also argues Duggar went to great lengths to obtain child porn without being detected, including installing a hidden browser on his computer to avoid accountability software that would have notified his wife.

Duggar hasn't received any treatment or therapy for his conduct to speak of and appears unlikely to ever seek out or meaningfully participate in treatment or therapy to address this conduct, according to the government. He also continues to deny any responsibility for his crimes, according to the government.

Duggar's lawyers argue he never knowingly distributed child pornography.

"To the contrary, even in the light most favorable to the government, the evidence demonstrated, at most, that the visual depictions at issue in this case were possessed for a particularly short period of time and were deleted shortly after allegedly being downloaded," according to the defense.

The defense also contends there should be no enhancement for Duggar's molestation conduct as a child, for which he was never charged.

"The government has provided no direct evidence that this conduct occurred," according to the defense. "Instead, the government offered only the testimony of (Bobye) Holt, who admitted having absolutely no firsthand knowledge concerning the allegations."

The defense maintains, at his core, Duggar is a good person who cares deeply for his family and the well-being of all those around him.

"Duggar's lifetime -- long before this investigation -- is one of genuine and sincere kindness, generosity, and benevolence," according to the defense argument for a downward departure from federal sentencing guidelines.

The defense also contends any punishment imposed on Duggar is also a punishment for his family.

"Given that Duggar has seven children and provides essential daily care and is the sole provider for the family, Duggar respectfully requests that this court take this extraordinary family circumstance into consideration when fashioning an appropriate sentence -- especially because this court can impose conditions of supervised release in lieu of a prolonged prison sentence."

Duggar's case is also different from most child porn cases because child porn was accessed, viewed and all deleted within a few days and then never sought again, according to the defense.

"A sentence of 60 months undoubtedly reflects the seriousness of the offense, promotes respect for the law, provides just punishment, affords adequate deterrence, and protects the public from future crimes," according to the defense. "And, in this case, a sentence of 60 months is sufficient, but not greater than necessary--and that is what the law requires."

Prosecutors accused Duggar in early 2021 of using the internet to download and view child pornography, some of which depicts the sexual abuse of children younger than 12, according to court documents.

Prosecutors told jurors child pornography was repeatedly downloaded on the computer at Duggar's used car lot on May 14, 15 and 16 of 2019.

Duggar's attorneys contended he didn't do it and suggested an unidentified, remote user may have downloaded the child porn.

Duggar, the oldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, is best known for being part of his family's cable television reality show on the TLC channel, "19 Kids and Counting." The show, which chronicled the Duggar family's home life, was canceled in 2015 after it became public knowledge that, as a teen, Josh Duggar molested four of his sisters and another girl.