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A computer expert for Josh Duggar's defense took the stand Monday in the former reality star's ongoing child pornography trial to suggest that a “hit and run” hacker may have been responsible for remotely downloading the child sex abuse materials found on a computer at Duggar's workplace.
Michele Bush, a computer forensic expert based in Phoenix, took the stand Monday shortly after prosecutors rested their case against Duggar, who is accused of knowingly receiving and possessing child pornography. He's pleaded not guilty in the case.
The prosecution’s case centered on testimony provided by James Fottrell, a computer forensic expert with the Department of Justice, who testified that data from Duggar’s iPhone photos and text messages placed him at the Wholesale Motors car lot at the same time the child pornography was downloaded and viewed on a workplace desktop computer in May of 2019, People reports.
The images were found on a Linux partition, which essentially split the hard drive in two and kept the explicit images hidden from an accountability tracker installed on the main computer and was secured with a password Duggar had used in the past.
On the stand, Fottrell insisted someone would have had to physically been present to switch to the partitioned side of the hard drive and said the evidence found by investigators was “not fitting” the idea that the images could have been downloaded remotely, according to local station KNWA.
However, Bush refuted that testimony, telling jurors that she believed the evidence suggested a “hit and run” hacker had remotely accessed the computer before disappearing undetected.
“The evidence leads me to believe that’s a very viable possibility,” she testified, according to People.
To support her theory, Bush noted that some of the child sexual abuse materials had been streamed from the computer’s video player even though they had been downloaded separately, suggesting that someone may have been able to access the computer through the router—which was never seized by investigators.
She also testified that the router’s ports changed as the videos were being viewed, which she said could suggest port forwarding, or a “sophisticated level” technique to “obfuscate your activity.”
According to her testimony, the router’s “universal plug and play” had also been enabled which weakened the network and made it easier for other devices to find the computer.
Without being able to examine the router, Bush said she wouldn’t be able to rule out remote access as a possibility. She also testified that investigators had never recovered a thumb drive that had been used in the computer just before the Linux partition had been installed.
During his testimony, Fottrell told jurors that investigators had only seized “critical evidence” relevant to the case and downplayed the importance of the router, telling jurors it contained only minimal information.
Bush also testified that depending on the settings of the computer, it may have been possible to remotely boot the computer and access the partitioned portion of the hard drive, People reports.
She also described the user name given to the Linux account, which was “DELL_ONE,” as “unusual” since the computer had been made by a different manufacturer and she received an error when trying to select that name due to the underscore, which can sometimes “confuse the system,” KNWA reports.
According to her testimony, one of the videos depicting child sexual abuse had only been viewed for about 30 seconds before it was deleted and she believed another file, known as “Daisy’s Destruction”—which focused on an infant—had never been viewed, People reports.
Duggar’s defense team has repeatedly insisted that Duggar—who was homeschooled and never went to college—lacked the knowledge and technological savvy to carry out the alleged crime.
However, before the prosecution rested, Duggar’s acquaintance Clint Branham took the stand and described Josh as a “power user of computer systems” who would be “comfortable modifying hardware,” according to the local news outlet.
Branham, who works as a tech expert in cybersecurity for Walmart, recalled a specific conversation at a Springdale coffee shop in 2010 with Duggar—and Duggar family friend Jim Holt—about setting up multiple operating systems to bypass filtering controls, BuzzFeed News reports.
Jim, former state legislator, took the stand to recount the same conversation, telling jurors he had “absolutely no doubt” Duggar had asked about installing a Linux partition.
“How would I set that up?” he testified Duggar had asked, according to KNWA.
Jim’s wife, Bobye Holt, also took the stand on Monday to deliver emotional testimony about conversations she said she had with Duggar in the past about sexually abusing young girls.
She testified that when Duggar was just 15 years old, she had been called to the Duggar family’s home on March 30, 2003 to hear an alleged confession, Buzz Feed News reports. She told the jurors that Duggar confessed to touching four underage girls on their breasts and vaginal areas, often either while the girls were asleep or sitting on his lap at Bible time.
She testified that Duggar discussed the alleged abuse again two years later in 2005, when she said he “confessed” to digitally penetrating a 5-year-old girl.
The judge reminded the jury that Duggar was not on trial for child molestation and instructed them to give the testimony “the weight and value you believe it is entitled to receive” while considering the current charges against him.
The trial is expected to continue Tuesday.
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