Lawyers for former reality TV star Josh Duggar seek to have child sexual abuse charges against him dismissed because investigators have failed to retain evidence they believe could help his defense, according to court records.
Duggar, 33, whose family appeared on TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” reality show from 2008-2015, was arrested and charged by the federal government in late April for receiving and detaining material of abuse child sex in Arkansas. Some of the material he is said to have in his possession described sexual abuse of children under the age of 12, federal officials said.
Duggar pleaded not guilty.
Duggar’s attorneys say in court documents seen by NBC News that investigators failed to preserve potential “exculpatory evidence” and that the two acting secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security at the time of the investigation did not were not correctly named.
Duggar’s attorneys say the charges stem from allegations of conduct involving a desktop computer from a formerly owned and operated Duggar business. The business was parking in Springdale, Arkansas, according to court records, which were filed in the United States District Court for Western Arkansas on Friday.
In November 2019, investigators from Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations division, commonly known as HSI, obtained a federal search warrant for the lot, court records show. Authorities searched the cell phones of three witnesses, one of whom was described as a “person of interest,” according to court records. Investigators found no evidence of child pornography on the three phones, according to the documents.
“The problem is that HSI may not have identified any evidence of child pornography during the field examination of these devices – but failed to preserve other potentially exculpatory evidence,” the case. “What happened here is as clear as it is disturbing, the government concluded that the three devices they searched did not advance its case against Duggar and therefore deprived Duggar of the possibility of accessing these. potentially exculpatory evidence. “
Justice Department officials could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Duggar’s attorneys also argue that while their client was under investigation, Kevin McAleenan and Chad Wolf were incorrectly appointed Acting Homeland Security Secretaries after Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned. The illegal appointments deserve to be revoked, the lawyers said, according to the records.
In May, Duggar was released from federal custody pending trial.
Conditions for Duggan’s release included electronic surveillance, a ban on talking to his children without his wife’s supervision, and a ban on the use of electronic devices. He must also live in a residence that has no children.
Duggar was confined to the home of family friends who agreed to be his guardians upon his release.
If convicted, Duggar could face a fine of $ 250,000 and jail time of up to 20 years on each count.
The judge who oversaw the conditions of Duggar’s release also referred to earlier allegations that Duggar assaulted his younger siblings as a teenager, which originally featured in an article in In Touch magazine. of 2015. Duggar issued a statement at the time saying he “had acted inexcusably” and was “extremely sorry”.
The Duggar family appeared to admit the allegations in an interview with Fox News in 2015. Her father, Jim Bob Duggar, said his son touched the girls over and under their clothes while they slept and that he was “fair. curious about girls. “
An Arkansas police report said Duggar was investigated in 2006 when he was 18. He has never been arrested or charged with any crime in connection with these allegations.
The Associated Press contributed.