Former reality TV star Josh Duggar was granted release in federal court Wednesday while awaiting trial on alleged possession of child sex abuse images, though the judge in his case raised concerns about his history with admitted molestation.
Duggar, whose family became a household name after its 2008 TLC series “19 Kids and Counting,” was charged with receiving and possessing the images last week in the Western District of Arkansas. A federal judge granted Duggar's release for Thursday during a detention hearing held over Zoom, but with a lengthy list of conditions.
The conditions include banning Duggar from speaking to his children without the supervision of his wife, forbidding the use of electronic devices, and electronic monitoring. He must also live in a residence that does not have any children.
U.S. District Judge Christy Comstock said she was concerned about the community in which Duggar will be released.
"It’s not the average defendant who can operate in the black web and partition their computer and bypass sophisticated monitoring devices," Comstock said. "The evidence that the court has heard today is significant, and frankly, the victims of your crime — if you committed it — concern the court."
Duggar pleaded not guilty to the charges against him but could face a fine of $250,000 and a prison sentence of up to 20 years for each count if convicted.
The judge also referenced Duggar's past admission that he molested his younger siblings when he was a teenager, an allegation that came out in a 2015 In Touch magazine report. Duggar released a statement at the time saying he "acted inexcusably" and was "extremely sorry."
An Arkansas police report indicated Duggar was investigated in 2006 when he was 18. He was never arrested or charged with any crime.
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Duggar, 33, is accused of using "the internet to download child sexual abuse material,” according to the federal prosecutor’s office.
Some of the material "depicts the sexual abuse of children under the age of 12, in May 2019," according to the statement.
The judge said she was "greatly concerned" that the subjects of the abusive images were close in age to his own children, nieces and nephews.
“I keep coming back to this overriding concern that the court has about the children that you live and interact with on a daily basis and the crimes that you are charged with," Comstock said.
His attorneys argued in a motion opposing pretrial detention that Duggar “has no prior criminal convictions” and deep community ties, posing no flight risk in his case.
“The charges against him arise out of alleged conduct involving a desktop computer at a business Duggar previously owned and operated,” the motion said. “When investigators arrived unannounced in November 2019 to execute a search of the business and to seize, inter alia, computers and electronic devices, Duggar fully complied with all law enforcement directives.”
He agreed to provide the court with the information for a "custodian" he could stay with where no children will be permitted to reside while he stays.
Duggar's attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the hearing on Wednesday.