Past molestation evidence allowed in Duggar child porn trial

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FILE – This undated photo provided by the Washington County (Ark.) Jail shows Joshua Duggar. A federal judge says no phones, laptops or recording devices will be allowed at next week’s scheduled trial for former reality TV star Josh Duggar, who is facing child pornography charges. U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks issued the order ahead of the trial, which is set to begin Tuesday in Fayetteville. (Washington County Arkansas Jail via AP, File)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Jurors in former reality TV star Josh Duggar’s trial on child pornography charges can hear evidence that he admitted to molesting four girls nearly 20 years ago, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks rejected a motion by Duggar’s attorneys to prevent the evidence from being heard as his child pornography trial began.

Duggar, who appeared in TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting,” was charged in April with two counts of downloading and possessing child pornography.

Prosecutors want the jury to hear testimony from a Duggar family friend who testified in a pre-trial hearing Monday that Duggar told her in 2003 that he molested four girls. But Duggar’s defense attorneys argued Duggar was never charged and that the allegations have no relevance to the child pornography case.

Brooks, however, said the testimony was relevant to Duggar’s child pornography case.

“The child pornography victims in this case are approximately the same ages as the victims of defendant’s hands-on child-molestation offenses,” Brooks’ order said. “Accordingly, the prior act evidence is probative of defendant’s sexual interest in underage children and his propensity for exploiting young girls.”

During opening statements, Duggar’s attorney argued that someone else downloaded or placed the images depicting the sexual abuse of children on his computer.

“If you like a mystery, then this is the case for you,” Justin Gilfand, representing Duggar, told jurors in his opening statement, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. “This is a classic, old fashioned whodunit.”

But federal prosecutors detailed logs showing minute-by-minute, the activity on Duggar’s computer that alternated between sending personal messages, downloading child porn and saving pictures of notes, the newspaper reported.

Duggar, 33, faces up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 on each count if convicted.

A federal Homeland Security agent in May testified that pornographic images depicting the sexual abuse of children, including toddlers, had been downloaded in May 2019 by a computer at a car dealership that Duggar owned.

Duggar has pleaded not guilty in the case and his attorneys have said they plan to defend his case “aggressively and thoroughly.”

TLC pulled “19 Kids and Counting” in 2015 over revelations that Duggar had molested four of his sisters and a babysitter. Duggar’s parents said he confessed to the fondling and apologized.

Duggar’s trial begins as his father, Jim Bob Duggar, is running in a special election for a vacant state Senate seat in northwest Arkansas. Jim Bob Duggar was also featured prominently on the TLC show and previously served in the Arkansas House. The primary election for the open seat is Dec. 14.

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