Josh Duggar trial: Week concludes with final questioning of DOJ expert witness

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Josh Duggar’s defense attorney Justin Gelfand in federal court giving opening statements in the Josh Duggar federal child porn trial. | Artist: John Kushmaul

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — On Friday afternoon at the Western District of Arkansas courthouse in Fayetteville, the prosecution and defense teams each concluded their questioning of a U.S. Department of Justice computer forensics expert.

At 5 p.m., Judge Timothy L. Brooks gave the jury the option of leaving for the weekend, or continuing on in order to finish the testimony of High Technology Investigative Unit (HTIU) Director James Fottrell. The jury opted to let him conclude his time on the stand.

Duggar’s lead defense attorney, Justin Gelfand, continued his cross-examination of the witness when the jury returned from lunch shortly after 1:30 p.m.

He brought up varied points, noting that a USB flash drive that was plugged into the HP computer was never seized or found by agents during the search warrant executed at Duggar’s car lot in November, 2019. Forensic evidence shows that a USB flash drive containing two Word documents and a Powerpoint file was inserted into the HP at some point. Later, on redirect with prosecuting attorney William Clayman, the subject circled back to that missing item.

“The existence of this thumbdrive,” Fottrell said, “is pretty inconsequential.”

Gelfand asked multiple questions about the intricacies of how certain files were installed on the Linux partition of the HP. Fottrell explained that the most likely answer was that Torrent applications and other programs were simply downloaded from a Linux App Store, which was featured on the main desktop of the seized device. The defense attorney also elicited testimony from Fottrell that the Tor browser on Duggar’s Macbook Pro could be used for “totally legal, benign things.”

After more questions about command shells, command lines, and queries about the absence of installer programs, a sidebar was called. The jury looked notably restless and most took advantage of the moment to stretch their legs in the jury box. One issue that came up regarded the virtual copy of the HP, when it was shown that the device in question was connected to the internet for approximately five minutes in order to update software necessary for the investigation.

Fottrell had previously stated that the virtual device was never connected to the web, and he admitted his error and explained that the device was never configured in a way that it could have been accessed or changed in that brief period, aside from necessary software updates.

One other topic Gelfand harped on was the manner in which certain videos were played on the HP. A handful of files were streamed locally, rather than being played directly from the hard drive. The defense inquired about whether this means they could have been accessed remotely, or even streamed on the internet at that time.

“It’s possible, but not likely,” said Fottrell. “It’s not relevant to me.”

Gelfand also questioned the Washington, D.C.-based expert’s familiarity with the area around the car lot, quizzing him about details shown in some of the prosecution’s exhibits.

“I’ve been looking at this map for a few months,” he explained. He acknowledged that he had never visited the car lot or the vicinity around it.

Gelfand pressed on, asking one question after another about the slightest piece of evidence or testimony that could be seen as contradictory or ambiguous. Fottrell explained that his conclusion is based on “the totality of the evidence.”

At approximately 5:35 p.m., court was adjourned for the weekend.

The judge reminded the jury about their responsibilities and instructions for both the weekend and the remainder of the trial, and informed them that they could receive the case for deliberations as soon as Tuesday afternoon.

He admitted that Wednesday was more likely.

Court will resume at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, December 6. It is unknown at this time if the prosecution has finished calling their witnesses.

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