(RNS) — Joshua Duggar, the eldest child in a conservative Christian mega-family made famous by TLC’s former reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” has been charged with receiving and possessing child pornography. He has pleaded not guilty.
Duggar, 33, was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals on Thursday afternoon (April 29) in Arkansas at the car dealership where he works. According to court documents, he allegedly downloaded pornography that included the sexual abuse of children under the age of 12.
If convicted, Duggar, who is married and has six children, could face up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000 on each count. His trial is scheduled for July 6.
Thursday’s arrest is the latest in a number of sexual scandals for Duggar. In May 2015, it came to light that his father, Jim Bob Duggar, reported to police years earlier that a juvenile Duggar had molested underage girls. The molestations had allegedly occurred before the TLC show began, when Duggar was 15, and records regarding the allegations had been sealed since 2006 before being obtained by InTouch magazine.
It was later revealed that four of the victims were Duggar’s younger sisters.
In a June 2015 interview with Megyn Kelly on Fox News, Duggar’s parents said they were “shocked” and “devastated.”
“As parents we felt, we’re failures,” said Duggar’s mother, Michelle Duggar. “We tried to raise our kids to do what’s right — to know what’s right. And yet one of our children made really bad choices.”
They maintained, though, their son was not a pedophile because he was too young at the time of the abuses. Duggar was never charged with a crime.
After the revelations, Duggar resigned from his position at the conservative Family Research Council in Washington, a group that opposed legalized abortion and gay marriage.
Just a few months later, in August 2015, Gawker revealed Duggar had an active account with Ashley Madison, an online service aimed at married men seeking to cheat on their spouses.
Duggar, who married his wife, Anna, in 2008 and had four children at the time, apologized in a statement on the Duggar family website and confessed to infidelity, as well as a pornography addiction.
“I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him,” the statement read.
Duggar sought treatment at a Christian counseling center in Rockford, Illinois. He and his wife stayed together and went on to have two more children.
Earlier this week, the couple announced on social media they are expecting their seventh child, a girl.
In 2008, TLC launched “19 Kids and Counting,” introducing audiences to the large Duggar family and the conservative Baptist beliefs that fueled their fecundity and influenced their parenting style. In the first season of the show, Josh and Anna, who had met in 2006 at a Christian camp, were married. Anna and Michelle Duggar were famously pregnant at the same time.
After nine seasons, the show was canceled in the wake of Josh’s molestation scandal.
In a statement on their site Friday (April 30), Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar responded to the most recent charges against their son.
“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.”