Joshua Duggar will be released from jail as he awaits trial for child pornography charges, federal judge rules

Former reality TV star Joshua Duggar filed a motion Tuesday asking that he be released from jail on bail and allowed to return home as he awaits trial for child pornography charges. By Gregory Lemos, Jamiel Lynch and Amir Vera, CNN

(CNN) -- A federal judge ruled Wednesday that reality TV star Joshua Duggar can be released from jail as he awaits trial for child pornography charges.

Duggar is being released to the care of a third-party custodians, not to his Arkansas home where he lives with his pregnant wife and six children. The proposed custodians were questioned by the prosecution and defense during a four-hour hearing.

The couple said they were contacted by Duggar's father, Jim Bob Duggar, and have known the family through church and have been friends with them for several years.

U.S. District Court Judge Christy Comstack said in her ruling that though she was concerned by several aspects of the case and the testimony she heard Wednesday, she is releasing Duggar with several conditions, including the wearing of an electronic monitoring device and not watching any kind of porn or erotica. Duggar must report to the supervision of the US Probation Office.

Comstack said that due to the seriousness of the charges and the ages of the alleged victims, she could not release Duggar back to his home where he lives on his parent's property.

"Your own children, your sibling's children, your minor siblings or others that would come to the property are all a part of the society the court must consider protecting from you, if you are granted this release," she said.

"While you are presumed innocent, know that the nature of circumstances of these offenses concerns the court. I am cognizant of the court's obligation not to treat you any differently than it would someone who was similarly situated to you in terms of charges. There is a problem, though. Your family and you have chosen to live a high profile life out in the public. While you might not be the architect of the decision, that is where we have found ourselves," Comstack said in her ruling.

Duggar previously filed a motion for release

Duggar's release comes a day after his attorneys filed a motion asking for his release.

"Duggar is 33 years old, has no criminal convictions, and has known about this federal criminal investigation since November 2019 when Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI") executed a search of Duggar's prior workplace and issued a statement to the media through a spokesperson that 'HSI was present there pursuant to an ongoing federal criminal investigation,' " attorneys Justin K. Gelfand and Travis W. Story wrote in the motion.

The motion says that since the federal search, Duggar has continued living with his family in Arkansas "and, through legal counsel Duggar has maintained an open dialogue with the U.S. Attorney's Office in connection with this investigation."

Duggar was arrested on April 29 and arraigned on April 30 on federal charges of receipt and possession of child pornography, according to the US Attorney's Office in the Western District of Arkansas. He allegedly downloaded material that depicted the sexual abuse of children under the age of 12, the US attorney's office said in a statement. He has pleaded not guilty to the two charges.

Homeland Security Special Agent Gerald Faulkner testified Wednesday on the investigation into Duggar.

Faulkner detailed to the court that pornography containing young children was found on a desktop computer at Duggar's business in Springdale, Arkansas.

One of the files, according to Faulkner, depicted children ranging from 18 months to 12 years of age. Faulkner said in his 11 years of being an investigator those images are "in the top five of the worst I have ever had to examine."

Duggar is the oldest son of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, whose large family and devout conservative Christian upbringing were the subject of the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting." The show was canceled in 2015 in the wake of allegations that Josh Duggar molested girls when he was a teenager. He was never charged in relation to those allegations.

That same year, Duggar admitted that he had used Ashley Madison, a website designed to help married people cheat on their spouses, after his name was released when the website was hacked.

According to the motion, Duggar voluntarily surrendered to authorities and has "complied precisely as directed — underscoring his commitment to meet these charges and to accept and abide by any conditions of release set by this Court."

The motion claimed Duggar poses no threat to a person in the community and is not a flight risk due to his "deep roots" in his community.

Judge Erin L. Wiedemann said Duggar's trial is currently scheduled for July 6.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar posted a statement on their family website about the "very serious accusations" their son is facing.

"We appreciate your continued prayers for our family at this time. The accusations brought against Joshua today are very serious. It is our prayer that the truth, no matter what it is, will come to light, and that this will all be resolved in a timely manner. We love Josh and Anna and continue to pray for their family," they said.

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