Austin Jones—the 26-year-old YouTuber with 40 million views and 500,000 subscribers, best known for his a capella covers of ‘00s emo and pop-punk hits and soliciting nude videos from underage girls—has plead guilty to one count of felony child pornography, the Washington Post reports.
Jones’ 27-page agreement, which includes the guilty plea of “coercing six underage female fans to send him sexually explicit videos and attempting to do the same with as many as 30 other victims,” according to the Chicago Tribune, includes “conversations with six 14- and 15-year-old girls” captured on Facebook Messenger and Apple chat between 2010 to 2017. Jones offered “modeling opportunities” in exchange for sexually explicit images of the girls. He asked them to “talk about their age” and prove themselves to be his “biggest fan” while performing the acts.
From the Tribune:
In 2016, Jones told one 14-year-old girl in a Facebook chat that she was “so lucky” to have his attention. He then told her to remove her underwear, prosecutors alleged in a criminal complaint filed in 2017. “I’m just trying to help you!” Jones wrote, according to the complaint. “I know you’re trying your hardest to prove you’re my biggest fan. And I don’t want to have to find someone else.”
Jones’ plea deal made clear that many of the girls were hesitant as Jones asked them to perform increasingly explicit dances. One said she “might have to finish tomorrow” because she had to be up early for school. Another told him she’d resorted to “cutting” herself over the ordeal, according to the plea.
In June 2017, Jones was arrested in Chicago for two counts of child pornography. One girl claimed he asked her to “expose herself,” even when she said she was “only 14.” Another sent eight videos “exposing her genitals.” He, according to documents provided by his attorneys, entered “treatment to better understand the root of inappropriate, negative behaviors he had engaged in as well as to process underlying traumas that he had yet to address in any healthy, complete way.”
Less than two weeks after his arrest, Jones posted a YouTube video titled “Setting The Record Straight,” denying allegations against him and describing his own childhood sexual abuse and the death of his young brother. In it, he said, “I shouldn’t have asked you to do that, it was foolish of me... But there were never any nudes, never any physical contact. It never happened.”
Jones’ behavior—using marginal star power to leverage lewd images from 14-year-old girls—is identical to the systemic sexual misconduct issues that plague the pop-punk and emo worlds he drew inspiration from (it’s unsurprising, then, to learn he was invited on the 2015 Vans’ Warped Tour, the epicenter of that scene, and the setting of more than a handful of assault allegations between underage girls and their male musician heroes). The difference, in Jones’ case, is that there are actual consequences: he will be sentenced on May 3 and faces five to 20 years in prison.