Reality TV star Josh Duggar was sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison on Wednesday for receiving documents detailing child sexual abuse.
U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks handed down the 151-month sentence 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 control of the births and kisses 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 held an influential position with the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council in Washington, DC.
Duggar was convicted in December of 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 child sexual abuse onto a laptop at his car dealership — footage that a Homeland Security agent described it as “in the top five worst of the worst I’ve ever had to review.
Duggar’s mother, Michelle, and his wife, Anna – who gave birth to their seventh child last year – both wrote letters to Brooks pleading for clemency and attesting to his skills as a father. His attorney, seeking a five-year sentence, claimed Duggar “has lived an admirable life while navigating unique challenges associated with being in the spotlight since childhood.”
Prosecutors had requested the maximum sentence of 20 years, citing the sadistic nature of some of the documents he downloaded. (A second, lesser charge of possession of child pornography was overturned by the court.) “Duggar has a deep, pervasive, and violent sexual interest in children,” US aide Atty wrote. Dustin Roberts in a sentencing memo, which also referenced evidence heard at trial about Duggar’s alleged assault of several underage teenage girls.
“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 young girls, including several of her sisters, in 2002-2003. His parents, Jim Bob and Michele, who said they sent Josh to a Christian treatment program at the time, also came under fire for their reaction to the alleged behavior.
TLC stayed in the Duggar business with the spin-off, “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 lawsuit captured media attention and sparked scrutiny of the Duggar family and their impeccable reality television image. Many of Duggar’s siblings appeared in court, and several issued strong denunciations of their sibling after the sentencing. In contrast, family patriarch Jim Bob testified in a testimony hearing that he could not recall the details of the behavior Josh confessed to him as a teenager.