Embattled reality star Josh Duggar has been arrested and charged with receiving and possessing child pornography, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas announced Friday.
Duggar, of “19 Kids And Counting” fame, is accused of using the internet to download the illegal content, some of which depicts the sexual abuse of children under age 12. If convicted, he will face up to 20 years in prison as well as fines up to $250,000 on each count.
He appeared before Judge Erin Wiedemann via Zoom on Friday morning, a day after news of his arrest broke, and pleaded not guilty.
Duggar, 33, has been in the public eye since his family’s show premiered on TLC in 2008, and has previously faced accusations that he molested girls when he was a teen. In 2015, media outlets obtained copies of a police report revealing that, years earlier, his father told Arkansas State Police that Duggar had molested five girls, four of whom were his sisters, while they were sleeping.
Duggar subsequently resigned his position at the Family Research Council, which is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and said he “acted inexcusably” as a teen.
The FRC is known for its strong opposition to LGBTQ+ rights and same-sex marriage, claiming they’re a threat to the institution of marriage.
A 2015 breach of the dating site Ashley Madison exposed Duggar for using the website to cheat on his wife. “I have been the biggest hypocrite ever,” he admitted following the breach.
In the wake of the molestation reports, TLC canceled his family’s show, which followed the large and devout Baptist family in Tontitown, Arkansas. It often highlighted their controversial religious teachings, which included strong patriarchal beliefs. It also starred Duggar’s father, Jim Bob Duggar, who served as a Republican in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1999 to 2002, and his mother, Michelle Duggar, who famously recorded a transphobic robocall in 2014.