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Federal Prosecutors Urge Judge to Hand Josh Duggar Maximum Punishment for Downloading ‘Depraved’ Child Sexual Abuse Materials

Josh Duggar

Josh Duggar

Federal prosecutors want former 19 Kids and Counting star Josh Duggar imprisoned for 20 years for receiving and possession child sexual abuse materials, the maximum allowable sentence under the law.

“Distressingly, the market for child pornography has continued to grow, and to become more depraved, in recent years,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo on Wednesday. “That depravity is evident here. As noted above, Duggar sought out images and videos depicting prepubescent minors being subjected to sadistic and masochistic abuse.”

“Worst of the Worst”

In May 2019, Duggar set up a Linux partition on his work computer and installed an encrypted Tor browser and BitTorrent file-sharing app to download photographs and videos depicting the sexual abuse of children “as young as toddlers.”

One of the infamous videos that he downloaded, titled “Daisy’s Destruction,” depicted the sexual assault of an 18-month-old, authorities say. A Homeland Security agent who investigated Duggar described it at a bail hearing one of the “Top Five worst of the worst” files he ever had to examine. Its creator, Australian pedophile Peter Scully, has been serving a life sentence in the Philippines for human trafficking.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dustin Roberts alluded to the horrific nature of the child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) in his sentencing memos.

“As an initial matter, Duggar used multiple means—uTorrent and Tor—to search for and download CSAM of a sadistic nature, including CSAM depicting prepubescent minors being subjected to violent abuse,” the 32-page memo states. “Moreover, he went to great lengths to conceal his conduct from others, presumably so he could engage in it undetected and undeterred.”

Prosecutors found Duggar’s objections to a sentencing enhancement on these grounds baseless.

“Duggar’s barebones objection to this enhancement should be denied because the evidence produced at trial, which included visual depictions from Duggar’s computer of prepubescent girls being vaginally penetrated and bound with rope, easily satisfies the requirements to apply this enhancement,” the memo states.

Prosecutors describe other horrendous abuse involving a “large carrot” and a minor lying on a bed with the words “cut me,” “slut,” and “hurt me” written on her in a “blood-like substance” and “a knife pointed at her vagina.”

“The CSAM he received and possessed not only depicted minors with similarities to his prior hands-on victims, but it also depicted minors forced into bondage, placed in cages, and subjected to extreme acts of violence, including being whipped and posing nude with what appears to be simulated blood and a knife,” the memo states. “In fact, the forensic evidence presented at trial included multiple torrent files related to a series of CSAM that has repeatedly been described by law enforcement as being among the worst of the worst.”

Prosecutors quoted a parent of an unidentified victim of one of the files emphasizing that the dissemination of the materials causes real damage.

“I can find no words to express the fury I feel at those who participate in this evil, or my scorn for any attempt to minimize the responsibility by feeble claims that the crime was ‘victimless,'” the parent said. “My daughter is a real person. 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. While the crime is clearly conscienceless, it is hardly ‘victim-less.'”

The government calculates that Duggar downloaded more than 600 images, a number the defense disputes.

“Hands-On Abuse”

Prosecutors say that Duggar, who is now 34, had a predilection of predatory sexual behavior since his early teens. When Duggar was 12, he reportedly sexually molested his sisters, and prosecutors say they were all at least three years younger than he was. Duggar apologized for unspecified “wrongdoing” after In Touch Weekly published a police report about those incidents.

Though those incidents never went to court, prosecutors argued that they should be “the singular most important factor” to weigh.

“Although it has been widely reported and acknowledged by Duggar and his family in the public sphere, and yet still particularly contested throughout this prosecution, Duggar sexually abused multiple children when he was a juvenile,” the memo notes. “His victims, four in total, were all prepubescent females, including several who were significantly younger than Duggar. And now, similarly, the victims depicted in the CSAM that Duggar has been convicted of downloading and possessing were all girls, all of similar age, and all being sexually exploited. This is not coincidental.”

Instead, prosecutors argue, the incidents represent a pattern.

“The referenced ‘pattern’ that Duggar has followed, and which is now before this Court, involves his hands-on abuse of minor females followed up by his acts to obtain imagery reflecting the hands-on abuse of minor females,” the sentencing memo states. “At base, this pattern reflects a clear and long-standing sexual interest in prepubescent females. And troublingly, this sexual interest in children has gone and will likely continue to go—based on Duggar’s conduct throughout this case—unacknowledged and thus untreated.”

Prosecutors calculated the federal sentencing guidelines in a way that could have dealt the conservative activist a sentence of 30 years to life, if the maximum penalty under the statute for receiving child pornography hadn’t capped his sentence at two decades.

In 2015, a hack of the extramarital affair website Ashley Madison revealed that Duggar had a profile on the site, and he released a statement calling himself the “biggest hypocrite ever.” He installed software on his computer called “Covenant Eyes,” which would have alerted his wife if he consumed pornography. Authorities said that Duggar was a “power user” who knew how to defeat that software through the use of a Linux partition.

“When viewed alongside his molestation conduct from approximately 2003, Duggar’s offense conduct here makes clear that he became a savvier child sex offender in the intervening years, using sophisticated techniques to conceal and presumably prolong his ability to engage in this behavior,” the memo states. “Fortunately, he was caught and convicted, but it appears that he is more likely to view his conviction as evidence that he needs to learn more sophisticated techniques to avoid detection in the future as opposed to an opportunity to reflect on his years-long pattern of criminality and abuse.”

Duggar’s defense attorney Justin K. Gelfand requested a 5-year sentence, pointing to the letters submitted in his client’s support by his wife Anna Duggar and his friends.

“Josh Duggar is not the caricature often portrayed in the public spotlight to sell a tabloid or to generate internet traffic—it is a profoundly hardworking man committed with every grain in his body to his family, his faith, and to helping those around him at any cost,” Gelfand asserted in his sentencing memo.

Listen to Law&Crime’s podcast “Objections: with Adam Klasfeld” to learn more about Duggar’s worst download, in a episode recorded before the reality TV star’s conviction.

Read the government’s sentencing memo, below:

[Washington County, Arkansas jail mugshot]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."