FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — On October 3, Joshua Duggar’s defense team filed an appeal brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
The filing comes after a trio of deadline extension requests by the defense. Duggar, 34, was sentenced on May 25 to 151 months in federal prison, followed by 20 years of supervised release with a host of special conditions attached, after his December 2021 unanimous conviction on a pair of child pornography charges.
The October 3 brief is 64 pages long, including a summary of the case, citations and the request for oral argument. Specifically, Duggar requests 20 minutes of oral argument time before the federal appeals court.
The document states three specific issues in requesting an appeal of Duggar’s conviction:
- “Whether the district court violated Duggar’s constitutional right to present a complete defense by precluding Duggar from calling and, if necessary, impeaching a critical witness at trial.”
- “Whether the district court erred by denying Duggar’s motion to suppress statements after a federal agent physically stopped him from contacting his attorney and subsequently interrogated him outside the presence of his counsel.”
- “Whether the district court erred by permitting the Government’s expert to offer testimony on EXIF metadata and prohibiting Duggar’s expert from testifying to the unreliability of the methodology used by the Government’s expert.”
The statement of the case reviews the details of the execution of a search warrant by federal agents at Duggar’s business, Wholesale Motorcars, at a location the government described as “in the middle of nowhere” and surrounded by “chicken houses.” The filing says that after federal agents told Duggar that they were executing a federal search warrant, he “took his cell phone out of his pocket and stated he was calling his attorney.”
The brief then states that one of the special agents “physically grabbed the phone out of Duggar’s hand, confiscated it, and stopped Duggar from speaking with counsel.”
The filing continues by describing an interview conducted with Duggar shortly after that, which he consented to. The brief notes that “no attorney was present for any portion of this interview.”
Because the subsequent interrogation with Duggar was custodial and law enforcement continued to question him without his attorney present, Duggar’s statements should have been suppressed. On de novo review, this Court should reverse Duggar’s conviction, suppress the statement, and grant Duggar a new trial.Josh Duggar appeal brief, October 3
The defense filing continues by saying that “during the government’s entire pre-indictment investigation, agents did not speak with Caleb Williams or investigate him as a potential perpetrator, analyze any of Williams’ devices, or consider that Williams previously worked at Wholesale Motorcars, regularly used the only device in this case that had child pornography on it, was tech savvy, and sent Duggar a text message on May 7, 2019 offering to ‘watch the lot’ during the following week despite the crimes in this case allegedly being committed between May 14, 2019 and May 16, 2019.”
The defense presented no evidence during the trial that Williams was present at the car lot on the dates when illegal child sexual assault material (CSAM) was downloaded on the HP desktop computer in the car lot’s office, and the court ordered that he would only be allowed to testify as a witness if he had “knowledge or recollection of being present on the car lot on or about May 13 through May 16.”
The defense acknowledges that “it chose not to call Caleb Williams for the very limited purpose that the Court would allow.”
The district court violated Duggar’s constitutional right to present a complete defense by effectively precluding him from calling Caleb Williams as a witness and, if necessary, impeaching him with his prior felony sex crime conviction. On de novo review, this Court should reverse Duggar’s conviction, grant him a new trial, and permit him the opportunity to fully question Williams and, if necessary, to impeach him with his prior conviction.Josh Duggar appeal brief, October 3
The brief continues by addressing the EXIF metadata contained in several exhibits introduced at trial by the prosecution’s forensics expert, James Fottrell.
“Fottrell’s testimony about these exhibits purported to place Duggar at the car lot at certain dates and times,” the filing states. The defense objected to this testimony on the grounds that the topic was not presented as one of Fottrell’s areas of expertise before the trial.
The defense also address the contradictory testimony of its own forensic expert, Michelle Bush, who stated that “the child pornography on the HP desktop could have been downloaded by a remote user of the computer.”
The district court erred by permitting Fottrell, the Government’s computer forensics expert, to testify about EXIF metadata despite admittedly failing to provide notice of this testimony. Compounding the problem, the district court further abused its discretion by preventing Bush, Duggar’s computer forensics expert, to testify that the methodology Fottrell used is unreliable because it is not a forensic tool and to testify that Fottrell’s conclusions about geolocation and timestamping are unwarranted based on the complexity of EXIF metadata, how it can be manipulated, and how it must be accurately deciphered using forensic tools.
Because this issue cut directly to the heart of the Government’s theory that Duggar was allegedly at the car lot on certain dates and times and therefore must have committed the crimes charged, excluding the defense’s “presentation of contrary evidence” was unconstitutional.Josh Duggar appeal brief, October 3
The brief cited a plethora of prior cases in support of its three main points raised in the appeal.
“Each of the errors giving rise to this appeal is sufficient to warrant reversal of Duggar’s conviction,” the brief concludes. “Together, the problems are compounded. The Constitution guarantees criminal defendants a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense. The district court denied him that opportunity. This Court can right that wrong.”
Duggar’s defense team has maintained his innocence throughout the case. He is currently serving his sentence at FCI Seagoville outside Dallas.
The deadline for Duggar to file the brief was originally set for August 1, but on July 28 Judge Michael Gans granted the defense an extension until August 22 and another until September 12. A third unopposed motion to extend the deadline was made on September 8.
The prosecution has 21 days to submit a response to Duggar’s brief.
UPDATE: The brief was unsealed by the court on October 4. This story has been updated with details from the filing.