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TLC star Josh Duggar sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for child pornography

A booking photo of Josh Duggar
Josh Duggar upon his arrest in April 2021.
(Washington County (Arkansas) Jail via Associated Press)
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Reality TV star Josh Duggar was sentenced Wednesday to 12 and a half years in prison for receiving materials depicting the sexual abuse of children.

U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks handed down the sentence of 151 months at a courthouse in Fayetteville, Ark.

Duggar, a 34-year-old father of seven, rose to fame on “19 Kids and Counting,” a long-running TLC reality series about a fundamentalist Christian family who homeschooled their children and disavowed birth control and kissing before marriage. The eldest of 19 children, Josh played a major role in the series, which followed him as he married, started his own family and took an influential job with the Family Research Council’s lobbying arm in Washington, D.C.

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Josh Duggar’s conviction on child pornography charges is the latest scandal involving alleged child sexual abuse by people linked to TLC programs.

Duggar was convicted in December on two counts of possessing and receiving child pornography. During the trial, prosecutors presented compelling evidence that Duggar used the dark web to download material depicting the sexual abuse of children to a laptop at his car dealership — images a Homeland Security agent described as “in the top five of the worst of the worst that I’ve ever had to examine.”

Duggar’s mother, Michelle, and wife, Anna — who gave birth to their seventh child last year — both wrote letters to Brooks pleading for leniency and attesting to his skills as a father. His lawyer, asking for a sentence of five years, claimed that Duggar “has lived an admirable life while navigating unique challenges associated with being in the public spotlight since childhood.”

Prosecutors had asked for the maximum sentence of 20 years, citing the sadistic nature of some of the material he downloaded. (A second and lesser charge of possessing child pornography was vacated by the court.) “Duggar has a deep-seated, pervasive, and violent sexual interest in children,” wrote Assistant U.S. Atty. Dustin Roberts in a sentencing memo, which also referenced evidence heard at trial about Duggar’s alleged molestation of several underage girls as a teenager.

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“19 Kids and Counting” was canceled in July 2015, several months after it emerged that, as a teenager, Josh had been investigated by local police for allegedly molesting several younger girls, including a number of his sisters, in 2002-03. His parents, Jim Bob and Michele, who said they sent Josh to a Christian treatment program at the time, were also criticized for their response to the alleged behavior.

TLC stayed in the Duggar business with the spinoff, “Counting On,” which followed several of his sisters as they married young and had children. It was finally canceled last year, several months after Duggar’s arrest.

The 2021 trial attracted a flurry of media attention and prompted renewed scrutiny of the Duggar family and their squeaky-clean reality TV image. Many of Duggar’s siblings appeared in court and several issued forceful denunciations of their brother after the conviction. In contrast, family patriarch Jim Bob testified during an evidentiary hearing that he couldn’t recall the specifics of the behavior Josh had confessed to him as a teenager.

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