Duggar News: Josh Duggar Isn’t the First TLC Star to Face Serious Prison Time for Disturbing Crimes

Josh Duggar’s trial on child pornography charges is set to begin on Nov. 30, 2021. If found guilty, the former 19 Kids and Counting star could end up spending 40 years in prison. 

Josh has pleaded not guilty to receiving and possessing material depicting the sexual abuse of children. If he does end up behind bars, he won’t be the first TLC star imprisoned for a disturbing crime. 

‘The Willis Family’ aired for two seasons on TLC 

Members of The Willis Clan appear on stage in an episode of 'America's Got Talent'
The Willis Clan on ‘America’s Got Talent’ | Eric Liebowitz/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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The Willis Family was a TLC reality show that aired for two seasons. It premiered in May 2015, just two months before the network canceled 19 Kids and Counting after allegations surfaced that Josh Duggar had molested several of his siblings.

The show followed the Willises, a family of 14 who performed around the U.S. as The Willis Clan. Before landing their TLC series, they’d previously appeared on America’s Got Talent and had another reality series on GAC, called The Willis Clan. 

The family included mom Brenda, dad Toby, and their 12 kids, whose names all began with the letter “J” — just like the Duggars. And like that other large family, they embraced conservative Christian values. Brenda said that when it came to parenting, they stayed true to the Bible and that her husband exerted strict control over the family, even approving the clothes his daughters wore (via The Daily Beast).  

Toby Willis was convicted of child rape  

Toby Willis mugshot in screencap from 'Megyn Kelly Today'
Toby Willis | ‘Megyn Kelly Today’ via YouTube

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The last episode of The Willis Family aired in April 2016. In September 2016, police arrested Toby Willis on child rape charges, Fox News reported. At the time, TLC said it was “shocked” by the news and said it had previously decided not to renew The Willis Family. ​​ 

“I was shocked and devastated by the revelation of events leading to Toby Willis’ arrest,” Brenda Willis said in a statement at the time, adding that she supported the District Attorney’s office investigation into her husband.

In July 2017, Toby Willis pleaded guilty to four counts of child rape. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, The Tennessean reported. 

The Willis family decided to move forward

After Toby’s arrest, the other members of the Willis family dropped out of the public eye for a time. Six of the eldest siblings resurfaced in 2018, when they released a new album that addressed their father’s abuse. 

The album included the song “Speak My Mind.” The song was written by Jessica Willis, who was no longer part of the group. She had gone public about her father’s crimes in a candid post on her blog. In that essay, she discussed sexual abuse that began when she was a child and continued for years. Several of her sisters also identified themselves as victims of their father’s abuse during an appearance ​​on ​​Megyn Kelly Today, while three Willis brothers discussed physical abuse their father had committed. 

“I still don’t know how to process it,” Jeremiah Willis said. “It’s not something you expect. It’s not something that you want. And it’s something that we hope never happens again. But unfortunately, it’s extremely common.” 

How to get help: If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 for free and confidential support.

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