On Friday, YouTube musician Austin Jones pleaded guilty to child pornography charges for coaxing six underage female fans into sending him lewd videos, the Chicago Tribune reports. His plea included a confession to attempting the same with up to 30 additional victims. Jones now faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, according to assistant U.S. attorney Katherine Neff Welsh; the maximum penalty is a 20-year sentence. Authorities first arrested Jones in June 2017 on child pornography charges.
The Bloomingdale, IL native remains free on bail while he awaits sentencing. U.S. District Judge John Lee rejected prosecutors’ pleas that Jones immediately enter custody, allowing the 26-year-old to continue psychiatric counseling.
Jones’ 27-page plea agreement revealed that between 2010 and 2017 he steered online conversations with six 14- and 15-year-olds to sexually explicit territory. The plea also disclosed that Jones asked the girls to send graphic videos of themselves dancing provocatively and miming sex acts.
Jones, who has more than 500,000 YouTube subscribers, dangled his power of celebrity over these girls and asked them to talk about their age while they performed sex acts, according to his statement. He admitted to manipulating these young female fans, often promising “modeling opportunities” to encourage them to indulge his requests. Jones told many of the teens that sending inappropriate videos would prove who was really his “biggest fan.”
Jones’ attorney said his client has just begun addressing the sexual abuse he suffered as a child as well as the traumatic sudden death of his little brother in counseling. He previously released a YouTube video apologizing to the people he asked for videos, though he said they did not include “nudes” or “physical contact.”
Jones’ sentencing is set for May 3.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).