Josh Duggar files motion for acquittal or new trial after child pornography convictions

Josh Duggar
Josh Duggar | Washington County Sheriff's Office

Josh Duggar’s lead defense attorney, Justin Gelfand, has filed a motion to request that his client be acquitted of two child pornography convictions or be granted a new trial.  

The former reality TV star’s defense team filed a motion over 75 pages long on Wednesday asking for an acquittal under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, according to the Arkansas-based KNWA-TV.

If the acquittal is denied, then the motion requests a new trial.

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Images of child pornography were found in a computer at a cardealership owned by the eldest child of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, whose family was featured on the reality television shows “19 Kids & Counting” and “Counting On.” The Duggars are a large ultra-conservative Christian family that lives in Arkansas. 

Josh Duggar, a 33-year-old father of seven, had pled not guilty to the charges. His defense claimed someone else was responsible for the illegal files on the computer, a claim investigators found that to be unlikely. In December, he was found guilty by a federal jury of receiving and possessing child pornography and could face up to 20 years in prison. He has not yet been sentenced. 

Gelfand maintained that the evidence presented was not enough to convict the former “19 Kids and Counting” reality star. 

“The evidence elicited at trial does not support a conviction on either count — even in the light most favorable to the Government,” the motion claims. “The Government failed to adduce any evidence that Duggar 'knew that the visual depictions were of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.’”

The request explained that the video files used as evidence in the initial trial gave the jury “no evidence that Duggar personally viewed any specific portion of any of the files allegedly found on the computer.” 

“The Court’s broad discretion empowers it to grant relief based not only on the sufficiency of the evidence at trial but on any other circumstance that might render the trial ‘essentially unfair,’ including trial errors,” the statement continued.

The prosecution “failing to timely disclose exculpatory evidence” is what the defense claims.

Duggar’s team is accusing the government of violating multiple rules of procedure and evidence. The argument is that the prosecution delayed turning over exhibits created by James Fottrell, director of the Department of Justice’s High Technology Investigative Unit, ahead of the trial.

According to the defense, a former employee at Duggar’s car dealership, Caleb Williams, was “an individual who had access to the car lot and the HP desktop computer during certain relevant time periods.” The motion claims that “law enforcement had failed to meaningfully investigate the possibility that anyone other than Duggar may have committed the crimes charged.”

The motion also included a screenshot of an email from Caleb Williams.

Gelfand brought up this possibility during the trial and argued that investigators were “star-struck” by Duggar. As a result, the defense claims that the investigators did not thoroughly investigate the possibility that someone else could be responsible for the files found on the computer. The prosecution interviewed Williams before the trial began, but he was not called as a witness, KNWA-TV reports

Williams sent an email to a member of the prosecution’s team from the Department of Justice stating the following:

“I was completely mistaken about not being at the Wholesale Motorcars lot during the time I was in Arkansas (AR) between May 8, 2019 – May 11, 2019. I do not know if I was on the lot computer or even if I ended up going there. It looks like during my time there, I did odd work for the guys and maybe even Josh Duggar. In the messages between Josh Duggar and I, while I was in AR, as attached in one of these screenshots I am providing, I tell Josh I was planning to come to the lot a couple of days. I apologize for the mistake; I had no intention to mislead you all. - Caleb Williams”

But during the trial, the prosecution maintained that forensic evidence and testimonies determined that Duggar was the only person at his dealership during the dates in question when the illegal material was downloaded to the computer.

Duggar’s defense contends that Williams made the prosecution aware that he had to turn back to the dealership to “sell cars.” The defense says the government “hid the ball from the defense during nearly its entire case-in-chief.”

“This deprived the defense of the ability to impeach these witnesses with evidence that yet another person had access to passwords,” the motion detailed. “Had the defense possessed this information when it became available, it would have meaningfully affected trial strategy and provided additional fodder for cross-examination of Government witnesses.”

The defense motion concludes that Duggar was deprived of the opportunity “to present relevant, material favorable evidence in his favor and this ruling was disproportionate to any legitimate or evidentiary purpose.”

“As such, it violated Duggar’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights and this Court should grant him a new trial,” the motion states. 

Duggar had previously admitted to molesting his sisters when he was younger. His history of abuse resulted in the cancelation of the family’s reality show.

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