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‘I Don’t Want To Say That I’m Guilty Or Not’: Authorities Play Audio Of Initial Interview With Josh Duggar
“What is this about? Has somebody been downloading child porn?” Josh Duggar allegedly asked after Homeland Security investigators showed up at his used car dealership in Arkansas in 2019.
Not long after Homeland Security investigators descended on the Wholesale Motorcars used car dealership in November of 2019 as part of a child pornography probe—they sat with Josh Duggar in one of the agent’s vehicles to discuss the investigation.
“What is this about? Has somebody been downloading child porn?” Duggar allegedly asked, according to testimony Wednesday from Homeland Security investigator Gerald Faulkner, local station KNWA reports.
Faulkner testified that Duggar made the statement before investigators turned the recorder on—a point later hammered on by Duggar’s defense attorney—but large portions of the conversation Duggar had with investigators at the car lot on Nov. 8, 2019 were caught on tape, People reports.
Duggar is facing two counts of knowingly receiving and possessing child sexual abuse materials after investigators said they discovered pornographic images of children on his workplace computer.
Duggar—whose federal trial began earlier this week—has pleaded not guilty to both counts against him.
After being read his Miranda rights, Duggar told investigators that his iPhone, MacBook and HP desktop were the three electronic devices he had at the car lot at the time, but said the devices were also often used by his wife and children, according to portions of a 51-minute conversation played in court Wednesday.
Duggar also told investigators that he was familiar with peer-to-peer networks and had the software installed on all three of his devices.
Prosecutors have argued that a peer-to-peer network was used to access child sexual abuse materials on the computer in the car lot’s small office.
Duggar also mentioned using the Tor browser, a browser that can be used to mask Internet activity and connect to the “Dark Web,” and said a friend had helped him install the browser for file sharing, KNWA reports.
Duggar allegedly told investigators that he used the browser to upload photos for the dealership, but Faulkner testified on the stand Wednesday that it would have been an unusual practice.
“I would not think the ‘Dark Web’ would be the best place to do that,” he said, according to People.
When questioned more fully about whether Duggar was using the Tor browser or the file sharing client Torrent, Duggar appeared confused and said he “better not say” if he didn’t fully understand.
At that point, investigators said they were at the property to investigate child exploitation and Duggar began to ask questions of the agents.
“Is that what you’re saying is going on?” he asked, according to the local station. “Is something going on on my devices?”
In another portion of the conversation played in court, agents told Duggar that someone on the car dealership property had downloaded illegal content and said they were looking into how the lot was connected to the downloads.
Duggar remained cordial and cooperative throughout the interview, but also told investigators that he did not want to implicate himself in anything.
“Appreciate what you guys do,” Duggar said, according to Buzz Feed News. “I don’t want to say that I’m guilty or not of accessing inappropriate content at some point in my life.”
The suspicious activity was initially spotted by Little Rock Police Detective Amber Kalmer—who also took the stand Wednesday—through a special program used to sweep the internet for child pornography in May of 2019. Kalmer didn’t relay the tip to Faulkner until the next month and he officially picked up the case in July 2019, later tracking the IP address to the car lot.
However, Faulkner testified on the stand that the property had recently been split into two parcels and they were initially sent to serve the warrant at an incorrect address before realizing the mistake due to “outdated, old mapping records.”
Under cross examination, Duggar’s defense attorneys questioned Faulkner on why he never investigated the first address investigators were sent to more thoroughly and why it took him so long to pursue the case.
They have suggested that investigators dropped the ball and failed to fully investigate who was responsible for downloading the images—including other employees who worked at the car dealership.
“This is equivalent of a trail of blood from a murder scene. … They [the prosecution] didn’t follow it,” Justin Gelfand said in his opening statements, according to People. “It does not lead to Josh Duggar.”
Gelfand called the case “an old-fashioned whodunit,” and argued that Duggar lacked the technological knowledge or skills to carry out the crime.
“No disrespect to Josh, who I have enormous respect for, he’s not a computer genius,” Gelfand said.
Prosecutors said witnesses plan to testify that Duggar had a Linux partition, or program used to essentially split the hard drive in two, to keep the illicit images hidden.
In his opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dustin Roberts said the partitioned part of the hard drive used a different password from the main portion of the drive, but was one that Duggar allegedly had used in the past for other personal accounts.
He also focused during the opening statements on the children victims in the case, who he said had been “exploited” and “violated.”
“Throughout the trial, you’re going to see images of minors, not actors, not actresses—children, some as young as seven years of age,” he said, according to the news outlet. “These children are being abused.”
"These are the very images and files the defendant Joshua James Duggar was downloading,” Roberts said, according to People.
The trial is expected to continue with testimony on Thursday. If Duggar is convicted, he could face up to 20 years behind bars for each charge against him.