I want to preface this article by saying that usually, I try to keep humor in my writing—I like to make myself and my readers laugh even when I’m writing about serious issues—but this article is not going to be silly or tongue-in-cheek because the things that were found on this man’s computer, a man who has confessed to molesting his child-sisters in the past, is so disgusting and disheartening that I don’t believe this situation should or could ever be approached light-heartedly…this supposedly “holy” man is doing the devil’s work on earth, and I genuinely hope he never experiences joy again in his life.
*Also, content warning for child abuse, sexual abuse, and pedophilia*
In early May, I wrote an article detailing the Josh Duggar arrest and charges. I went fairly in-depth with who Josh Duggar is, what crimes he’s committed so far, and why he was arrested: you can read the article here.
I believe I wrote the article in the first few days of May when the news had just dropped and there was very little information available, but since then there have been several key developments in the case.
For now, we’ll focus on the early May bail hearing and what came from it.
May 5th Bail Hearing
Start of Hearing and Preface
Unfortunately for the Duggar family who make most of their revenue and power from the media painting them as a wholesome Christian family, the whole internet became privy to exactly what was going on in the courtroom at Josh Duggar’s May 5th bail hearing. A law student from the United States was able to get access to the online Zoom bail hearing where they later broadcasted immediate updates to Reddit.com.
The thread is a very long, multi-part series that details what was happening down to facial expressions and computer malfunctions. It’s a great resource and where I got my information for this part of the article where I’ll be summarizing what happened. If you’re interested in reading the entirety of the report, you can find it here.
As the bail hearing began, several of Josh Duggar’s siblings were counted as present in the seventy-one-person online meeting. Josh Duggar is of course present, and apparently looking serenely unbothered by the whole situation (much like he was in his mug shot), his surroundings are that of a prison room with a prison guard behind him, just off screen.
The Prosecution’s First Witness
The prosecution’s first witness is Special Agent Gerald Faulkner with The Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) who has worked solely on federal cases involving exploited children for the past decade. Agent Faulkner has worked on over 1000 cases of child exploitation, most of which were child pornography cases.
According to Faulkner, in May 2019 Homeland Security tracked down a BitTorrent (a peer-to-peer file-sharing program) sharing images of child-pornography in North-West Arkansas. On May fourteenth and fifteenth of 2019, Faulkner was able to secure two of the images shared by this account, and the images were extremely graphic, of children under the age of twelve being raped and sexually assaulted by adults.
Faulkner and his team immediately began tracking down the account, and by October 2019, they were able to see that the account was owned by Joshua James Duggar in Springdale, Arkansas. The exact address associated with the activity was eventually revealed to be Wholesale Motorcars (Josh Duggar’s place of business) and this eventually led to a federal search warrant and raid of the property on November 8th, 2019 at 3:15PM.
When law enforcement arrived for the search, they found that the property was fairly extensive with several buildings, a shed, and approximately thirty cars and RVs. They took a soft approach and came to the main office without weapons drawn, where they encountered Josh Duggar and two other individuals. Smartly, to not spoil later statements, the police did not disclose the reason that they were there, only that they had a federal search warrant for the property, they also did not wear uniforms or drive vehicles that would suggest they were with child-exploitation. As this was not an arrest warrant, the police told the three men (including Josh Duggar) that they were allowed to leave freely.
Josh Duggar took out his phone and told them he was going to call his attorney, the police officers immediately took it from him, as they had a warrant to search his personal phone as well. The police began their search, while Josh Duggar stayed on the property unsupervised. They could seize Duggar’s iPhone, his desktop computer, as well as a MacBook computer that was found in one of the RVs. The desktop computer had a picture of Josh Duggar, his wife, and his children as the wallpaper which confirmed that it was Duggar’s personal computer.
Law enforcement, including Faulkner, asked Josh Duggar if he’d speak with them, which he agreed to. Special Agent Faulkner along with a police officer sat in a car and spoke with Duggar, recording the conversation with Duggar’s approval. Although no one had told Duggar why they were there and there was no mention of child exploitation, Josh Duggar said “What is this about? Has anyone been downloading child pornography?”
After they read Josh Duggar his rights, they started interviewing him, and he gave a lot of information. Duggar said he owned the car lot since June 2018, he also owned all three devices (iPhone, MacBook, and Desktop) that they had found on the lot, but he suggested that sometimes his family used the iPhone and the MacBook.
When law enforcement asked Duggar if he was familiar with peer-to-peer file sharing, he said that he was, but did not want to elaborate. He admitted that his computer may have been involved in peer-to-peer file sharing, and even said that his work desktop might have had access to TOR, a browser to access the dark web, the primary source of child pornography.
As they began pressing into harder and more incriminating questions, Josh Duggar started refusing to answer more and more. When Faulkner asked if Duggar was familiar with BitTorrent (the file-sharing program that had been used to spread child pornography on his computer) he declined to answer, later when they asked him if he had seen someone else using his computer to access these images, he once again declined to answer.
Eventually, they told Duggar that there had been child pornography with images of children between the ages of five and ten being accessed from that car lot using BitTorrent or some other form of peer-to-peer file sharing.
Meanwhile, as Special Agent Faulkner interviews Duggar, the officers who are in charge of going through Duggar’s computer find TOR (the dark web browser), BitTorrent, as well as a program called Covenant Eyes on Duggar’s desktop and MacBook. Originally, I didn’t know what Covenant Eyes was, but after some searching, I found out that it’s a program on your computer that sends weekly reports of your web activity to another person as a way to keep you honest online. Safe to say, it didn’t stop Josh Duggar.
As law enforcement continued to search Duggar’s devices, they found that in May 2019 (around the same time that the detectives were able to track the images of child pornography to Duggar’s computer), a Linux partition had been installed on Duggar’s desktop. I’m not a computer person, but basically what I believe this means is that Duggar had downloaded a program that made his computer work in two different systems completely separate from each other. So, one system could be used to access work files, read scripture, and visit clean websites so Covenant Eyes can report to whoever his trusted person is that he’s being a stand-up person on the internet, while the other system can be used secretly to access the dark web and photos of exploited and abused children, without affecting the clean part of the system. The password for the dark side of the Linux partition had the exact same password that Josh had used for several other websites and accounts.
Things get really incriminating when the team of officers in charge of searching Duggar’s computer find that his iPhone has been backed-up to his MacBook, which makes his internet history, iMessages, and iPhone activity all accessible through his MacBook. The searchers find that the Linux partition was created on the same day that the dark web browser was installed, showing clear intent and the confirmation that Josh Duggar knew his actions were reprehensible.
On May 14th 2019 a series of internet activity takes place on Josh Duggar’s computer, some of which is illegal, and some of which incriminates Josh as the sole user of the computer. At 4:49 PM, Josh sends a text that says ‘Got stuck here and still not free yet. I’m gonna aim for tomorrow just after lunch’, suggesting that he is perhaps stuck at work. Then, less than ten minutes later at 4:58PM TOR is used to watch pornographic videos depicting rape, and then a file with child pornography is downloaded. Later on in the evening at 5:38PM, two more files of children being sexually abused were downloaded; these were the videos that alerted Little Rock, Arkansas police.
The next day on May 15th, 2019, three more child pornography files were downloaded to Josh’s work desktop computer at 11:53 AM. The same computer later in the day is used to text twenty-two members of Josh’s family to ask them to pray for someone who’s been in a motorcycle accident, and also used to leave reviews on review sites under the name “Joshua”. It’s very clear that Josh Duggar was the person using the computer that day.
On May 15th, 2019 at 5:25 PM, there is a file downloaded to Josh Duggar’s desktop computer of child pornography. Special Agent Faulkner, who has been working on child pornography cases for over a decade says that this series of images that were downloaded onto Duggar’s computer ranks in the top five of the worst images of child porn that he’s ever had to examine. At 6:56 a file containing sixty-five images of child pornography is downloaded onto Josh Duggar’s computer.
On May 16th, 2019 a file called “pedomom” was downloaded to Josh Duggar’s computer, the file had been opened, and it is confirmed that they were viewed by the desktop. Law enforcement also eventually found approximately 200 images of child pornography in Josh Duggar’s desktop computer in “allocated space” which means that someone tried to delete them but they were still on the system itself.
After the prosecution is finished speaking with Special Agent Faulkner, there is a small cross-examination by the defense, in which the defense attempts to poke holes in the legitimacy of the proof, and of Special Agent Faulkner. The defense suggested that it was circumstantial evidence because technology can be unreliable.
This first witness examination ends, and the judge asks some questions to get some clarification. We see that the Covenant Eye report would’ve been sent to Josh’s wife Anna, most likely because he had already cheated on her in the past, and has also admitted to a pornography addiction. However, Anna would not have been able to see the child pornography because of the Linux partition.
The Prosecution’s Second Witness
The second witness for the prosecution was Miss Diem Nguyen, a probation officer of over seventeen years. Nguyen is here to help the court decide if and how Josh Duggar should be released on bail while awaiting his trial. There are several factors that the court must consider when deciding whether to release someone on bail. Factors such as the nature and circumstances of the case, the defendant’s criminal history, his place of employment, and his residential situation all need to be taken into consideration. This case is also known as a presumption case, in which the person in custody is presumed to remain in custody until the trial, unless they can prove that them being released is not a risk.
The original idea is to hopefully find a third-party candidate to host Josh Duggar at their home until the day of his trial, as—due to the nature of his crimes—he is not allowed to be around children, so this third party would have to only have people over the age of eighteen in their household. Family friends of the Duggars, Mr. and Mrs. Reber are proposed to be the third party in this case.
The Rebers seem like pretty stand-up individuals; Mr. Reber works full time as a pastor, and volunteers in jail ministries and Mrs. Reber is a homemaker, however, Mrs. Reber expresses a bit of anxiety being left alone with Josh as a woman, and she also admits that she has several children coming in and out of her house weekly because she teaches piano lessons.
I’ve tried to keep my opinions out of this thus far, but it’s getting progressively harder and harder to keep my mouth shut. WHY would Mrs. Reber offer to take Josh into her home when she clearly feels as though he’s guilty because she fears being alone with him, and if she’s nervous being alone with a man who has admitted to molesting children and is now on trial for child pornography possession WHY does she think it’s okay to have him in the same house as children taking piano lessons? My head absolutely flew off when I read about this part.
As the examination continues Mrs. Reber admits that she’s really only offering because she’s close friends with Josh’s parents Jim Bob and Michelle, and she doesn’t know very much about Josh himself. She also admits that until this trial, she didn’t know the extent of the charges against Josh (which is probably why now she’s afraid to be alone with him). It just keeps getting worse as the questions continue because Mrs. Reber then says that they have several firearms in the home that they’d have to lock away from Josh, and she also says she doesn’t have a plan to keep Josh away from the children who would be visiting her home.
To my astonishment, Nguyen says that she thinks that Mr. and Mrs. Reber’s home could be suitable! She does express concern about the minors and the guns, as she should, but it doesn’t seem as if she’s cancelled them out as a viable option.
Apparently, in a solo interview with Josh, Nguyen asked Duggar if he had any addictions and Duggar answered no, but Duggar confirmed himself in 2015 that he had a porn addiction amidst the Ashley Madison scandal.
The prosecution brings up that Josh has a history of molesting minors, and that this predatory behavior is patterned, this is when the defense for Josh interjects and suggests that the records should remain sealed as he was a minor and we’re only familiar with them now because they were leaked to the press. However, the judge allows his prior criminal behavior into discussion because the Duggars chose to be very public with what Josh Duggar did, and it’s very relevant to the case.
The judge ends the prosecution’s second witness’s testimony by expressing concern for the community if Josh Duggar were to be allowed to leave custody. Nguyen agrees with her, suggesting that even if Mr. and Mrs. Reber’s home was suitable, the best course of action is most likely to keep Josh in custody.
In cross-examination of Ms. Nguyen, the Rebers are once again said to be very good people with a clean police record, they also say that they’d do everything in their power to make their home suitable for Josh. The defense also makes the point that in the 17 months that Josh has been under investigation he has not left the country, suggesting that he’s a low flight-risk.
The Defense’s First Witness
The defense’s first witness is a continuation of the conversation about Mrs. Maria Reber who is still gunning to get the position of Josh’s third-party host. The defense starts by listing reasons as to why Josh should be left with the Rebers instead of having to be kept in custody. There are some benefits in the Reber’s home that would make it a decent environment for Josh Duggar, they live on an isolated lot, a few acres from any neighbors, they have an in-law sweet for Josh to live in, they have no criminal history, they’re both stand-up citizens, they’re willing to change their home to host him, Mr. Reber intends to “minister” Josh, they’re willing to report Josh for any wrong-doing, and they are familiar with his charges*
*According to the defense.
However, once the prosecution began to cross-examine Mrs. Reber, the whole “The Rebers are a viable option” argument started falling apart very quickly. To begin with, it didn’t seem as though Mrs. Reber was actually comfortable doing this, and was offering her home at the behest of her husband who would be away most of the day, leaving his wife alone with Josh from 6AM to 4PM every day.
On top of being anxious to be alone with Josh herself, Mrs. Reber also admits that she wouldn’t feel safe leaving Josh alone with her adult daughter. When pressed about what she knows about Josh’s earlier offenses, it’s revealed that she really doesn’t know the extent of what he did when he was younger? She says that when he was “a teenager, maybe”, there was some “inappropriate touching”. She had no idea that Josh’s youngest victim was his sister who was five years old at the time. Even after learning about the extent of Josh’s crimes, she sticks by wanting to support him in her home, when asked if it was her idea she said that it was her husband’s decision and she stands by him. It became pretty clear that Mrs. Reber didn’t like the idea of having Josh Duggar, a known child molester, in her home at all, but she’s subservient to her husband.
Eventually, the judge closes out this witness by saying that if Josh Duggar were to stay at their home (which could be upward of six months) she must cease piano lessons at her home, get her guns out of her home, and make a promise to go straight to the probation office if any rules are violated by Josh. The judge was sure to say “you go to the probation office, not your husband, not Jim Bob Duggar, not the elders in your church.” This, in my opinion, shows how little faith this judge has in Mrs. Reber to do the right thing under the law.
The Defense’s Second Witness
Mr. Reber was the defense’s second witness, and I’m not a law student myself, but I found the defense’s examination of Mr. Reber really strange. It was basically just his name, if he’s willing to relocate his firearms if Josh were to live with them, and if he’s interested in being the third party host, to which Mr, Reber said yes.
It wasn’t until the prosecution began their cross-examination when we saw a bit of conversation between Mr. Reber and the court, and although Mr. Reber wasn’t as flaky and uncomfortable as his wife, he also began to crumble a bit under the cross-examination. While being questioned by the prosecution, he admits that although he knows more than his wife, he’s pretty in-the-dark about Josh Duggar’s charges and previous crimes. He also admits that he’s not well versed in computers and technology, which is definitely concerning because Josh may be able to overpower him for internet use. Mr. Reber didn’t know that Josh is tech-savvy, which makes sense because he says he doesn’t really know Josh and hasn’t spoken to him one-on-one in over a year. He says that he has no problem leaving Josh alone with his wife and daughter as long as it’s both of them, as a man and a woman shouldn’t be alone together if they aren’t married, anyway and he also says that he’s not “necessarily” going to Minister Josh religiously.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Reber come off as extremely out of touch and honestly a little stupid on cross-examination. They seem to have no idea what the extent of this situation is and why it should be taken seriously, they also seem to have more allegiance to the church and to Jim Bob Duggar than they do to keeping their community and home safe from predators like Josh Duggar.
The Prosecution’s Closing Argument
The judge asked both parties to keep their closing arguments under five minutes, as it had already been a long trial and they were running short on time. The prosecution kept it short and to the facts; they reiterated that it was clear that Josh Duggar knew what he was doing it wrong as he set up the partition in his computer so his wife couldn’t see the illegal content he was downloading. They talk about how Josh Duggar downloaded BitTorrent and TOR to download child pornography and he intentionally used his personal work computer to get away with it. They go forward into how severe the images of these children were, and how depraved the content that Josh Duggar downloaded was, and they also remind the judge that it couldn’t have been anyone else to download these images because the password for the partition is the same password that Josh Duggar uses for all of his other accounts.
They finish off by saying that Josh Duggar is already an admitted “hands-on” offender, and his past and present behavior makes him a danger to the community. We know factually that Josh has and will go to great lengths to hide his behavior, and we know factually that Josh has an attraction to minors. The prosecution also states the obvious: Mrs. Reber isn’t comfortable being alone with Josh, the Rebers have guns in their possession, and children coming in and out of their home, at the very least the Rebers are terrible candidates to house Josh.
The prosecution summarizes that all of these preexisting offenses toward children, and Josh’s ability to hide his crimes makes him a threat to the community, and this is why he should be kept in custody until his trial.
The Defense’s Closing Argument
The defense kept their closing argument pretty quick as they did the rest of their witnesses and cross-examinations. The defense says that Josh Duggar is innocent until proven guilty; he hasn’t fled the whole time he’s been under investigation, and according to Nguyen, he’s been very agreeable since he’s been arrested. They say that Josh is not a flight risk or a danger to his community.
When everyone is deliberating after the final closing argument, the judge asks Josh if he’s alright and Josh actually has the audacity to complain that he’s sitting on a metal stool.
The Judge starts by talking about the nature of Josh’s charges, where he could be facing five years in jail if he’s convicted of one charge, and potentially 20 years in jail if he’s convicted of both. There are several things that concern the court regarding Josh Duggar: he is very sophisticated with the computer and the internet and knows how to access the dark web, how to set up partitions on his computer, and how to bypass security systems, Josh Duggar was also in possession of some of the worst child pornography that a Special Agent who’s been working on child pornography cases for ten years had ever seen.
The judge makes a point to say that children are sexually abused and sent into sex trafficking often because it’s profitable. By consuming these disgusting images, Josh Duggar personally gave incentive to these abusers to hurt more children. The judge says that the evidence against Josh Duggar is not insubstantial and it weighs heavily against him.
She continues by talking about Josh’s history. He turned himself in, and the court doesn’t have reason to think he’s going to be a flight-risk, and as far as the court is aware, he has not tried to obstruct the evidence or searches. Although Josh Duggar has a clean record on paper, he did admit publically to molesting several of his younger siblings when he was a teenager, so he is not with clean conscious before this situation, especially considering that the children in the images he downloaded are the same ages as the girls he molested, connecting the crime and showing that he has a “type”. The court acknowledges and is concerned by the fact that Josh’s children are in this age group, and so are his nieces and nephews.
Eventually, the judge settles on a verdict that I think a lot of us didn’t see coming; she let him go into the care of the Rebers! Although there were a lot of formal rules like that Josh has to hand over his passport, he has to stay at home unless he’s going to work or church, and he isn’t allowed to use any technology whatsoever, he is still allowed unlimited access to his children, so long as his wife is there too!
I couldn’t believe this verdict! I know that the innocent until proven guilty thing is important, and maybe they didn’t have enough reason to hold him, but in what world should he even be able to see a child? I don’t care if they’re his own children, because he obviously has no problem sexually assaulting the girls in his family! I also fear that he’ll probably be left alone with his kids because his family has never taken his horrible actions seriously. At the very, very, very least, this man should have no contact with children whatsoever, and he should be placed somewhere with people who are far more competent than Mr. and Mrs. Reber, someone who isn’t under the thumb of the church and Josh’s father.
What do you think? Were you surprised by the judge’s decision? Do you think it’s reasonable to let Josh Duggar into the world? How do you think the trial is going to go?
There’s so much uncertainty in this trial and with this family, I just hope that justice is done.