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Jurors will soon be tasked with determining whether former reality star Josh Duggar downloaded child pornography while working at his Arkansas car dealership, or whether he’s an innocent bystander targeted by a “hit and run” hacker who downloaded the illicit material.
Prosecutors and the defense— who both rested their case Tuesday afternoon — have painted vastly different portrayals of how the child sex abuse materials got onto Duggar’s workplace desktop computer and who could be responsible for downloading the images in May of 2019.
Both sides are expected to deliver their closing arguments in the high-profile trial Wednesday, before the federal case will be handed to the jury to determine Duggar’s fate, People reports.
Prosecutors have alleged that Duggar was responsible for downloading the images over a series of days in May 2019 after installing a Linux partition that essentially divided the hard drive on his work computer in two to keep the child sex abuse images hidden from view. They pointed to the password used to access the partitioned portion of the computer “Intel1988” as evidence that Duggar himself had set up the system, noting that the password not only included Duggar’s birth year of 1988 but also was a password he’d used on other personal accounts.
Key prosecution witness James Fottrell, a computer forensics expert and High Technology Investigative Unit director also provided jurors with key time-and-place data taken from Duggar’s iPhone, text messages and photos that seemingly placed him at the car dealership at the time the same time the images were downloaded.
The defense team, however, relied heavily on testimony from computer forensic expert Michele Bush, one of just two witnesses called by the defense, who suggested a “hit and run” hacker had remotely accessed the computer and downloaded the images before disappearing undetected, People reports.
Bush also criticized investigators for not seizing all the electronic devices at the dealership, including a router, which she said had a “universal plug and play” feature enabled that would have weakened the network from outside security threats.
She described the “manual triage” process investigators had used during a search of the property to determine which electronic devices to seize as having “serious limitations,” according to local station KNWA.
While being questioned by the defense on Tuesday, Bush also questioned some of the time and place data presented by the prosecution, specifically a photograph of an HP computer screen with a reflection visible in it that appeared to be Duggar.
While the photo was found on an iPhone backup on Duggar’s personal Macbook Pro laptop, Bush said it didn’t necessarily mean that the iPhone had taken the photo.
“Just because the phone exists doesn’t mean the phone took it,” she said, according to the local news outlet.
She added that the photo could have been received in a text message or by some other means.
Although Bush had testified that she believed the evidence suggested a remote user had downloaded the child sexual abuse images, she admitted while being questioned by prosecutor William Clayman that she had “no idea” whether the images had been streamed locally or off-site and said the evidence she would have needed to determine whether remote access had occurred was not available to her.
Clayman also honed in on the circumstantial links to Duggar—like the password and comments he made to investigators that he had been recently configuring his router—and the child pornography downloads, People reports. Bush said on the stand that she did not realize the password contained Duggar’s birth year until the trial.
“I let the evidence speak for itself,” she said, adding that her focus had been on the computer forensics.
The defense also called Daniel Wilcox, a former Homeland Security Investigators task force member and Rogers Police Department narcotics officer, who had been tasked with going to the car dealership while undercover to determine if Duggar was on the property.
Defense attorney Justin Gelfand suggested that authorities had been solely focused on Duggar and had failed to look for other potential suspects in the case.
During cross examination, Wilcox said investigators had sent him to the property because an IP address in Duggar's name at the car lot had been linked to the downloads of the child sex abuse materials.
While an earlier potential witness list included Duggar’s sister, Jill, as a possible witness in the case, she was never called to the stand.
Jill’s husband, Derick Dillard, who had been in the courtroom for much of the testimony, told People he did not believe there was enough “reasonable doubt” to convict his brother-in-law.
After the defense rested around 2 p.m., prosecutors called Fottrell back to the stand as rebuttal witness to refute some of the claims Bush had made on the stand.
He also provided some “demonstrative exhibits” to the jury that showed how simple the process would be to install a Linux partition and stream the images from a URL.
He also appeared to shake off Gelfand’s references to the possibility of remote access and questions about streaming illegal content.
“I’m not sure remote access is relevant,” he said.
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