On Friday, former YouTube singer Austin Jones was sentenced to ten years in prison after having pleaded guilty to child pornography charges in February.
On June 12, 2017, Jones was arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport while he was allegedly on a tour.
According to a criminal complaint submitted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent Michael Ploessl, Jones, who was 24 at the time of his arrest, exchanged sexually explicit messages with underage girls online.
In a taped interview with HSI following his arrest, Jones admitted that he had engaged with underage girls on social media, telling them to perform sexually explicit acts on camera, then send the videos to him. Jones also admitted to masturbating “while watching [the videos],” according to the report.
Jones would allegedly tell the underage girls exactly what to say and do in the videos, having them specify their age multiple times. In one video, Jones even spoke about potential in-person sexual contact between himself and an underage girl, according to texts made available in the HSI criminal complaint.
A February press release from the United States Attorney’s Office Northern District of Illinois detailing the plea agreement Jones reached with the court stated in part:
Jones told some of his victims to send him the videos as a way to “prove” that they were his biggest fans, the plea agreement states. He also told some of his victims that the videos were part of a modeling opportunity, and that he could assist them in gaining followers on the social media site Instagram, the plea agreement states.
In addition to the six victims whom he enticed to send videos, Jones further admitted in the plea agreement that he used Facebook on approximately 30 other occasions to attempt to persuade minor girls to send him sexually explicit videos and photographs.
In 2015, following allegations of inappropriate behavior with young women, Jones, who had more than half a million YouTube subscribers, posted a lengthy video in which he claimed that he only ever asked underage girls to twerk on camera, and that it never went beyond that.
“I’ve been in therapy, seeking help to discover why I communicated with my fans in a way that I have come to fully realize was not appropriate. I’m embarrassed,” Jones wrote in a Facebook statement. “I’d have conversations online with girls that would involve me asking them to create a video of themselves twerking. Sometimes I’d make videos of myself doing some twerk moves in return.
He then claimed that he “NEVER asked them to do anything more than send a twerking video. Nothing EVER went beyond that. EVER.”
In a sentencing memorandum, Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Neff Welsh said: “Production and receipt of child pornography are extraordinarily serious offenses that threaten the safety of our children and communities.” She added that what Jones did “took something from his victims and their families that they will never be able to get back.”
No details have been released regarding when and where Jones will serve his sentence.