YouTube Star Austin Jones Gets 10-Year Prison Term for Receiving Child Porn From Underage Followers

YouTube singer Austin Jones, pictured above, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for coaxing his underage followers to produce and send him sexually explicit videos of themselves. (May 4, 2019) Screengrab

YouTube singer Austin Jones was sentenced to 10 years in prison for coaxing underage followers to produce and send him sexually explicit videos of themselves.

U.S. District Judge John Lee handed down the prison term on Friday in Bloomington, Illinois. Jones, a 26-year-old singer who earned online attention through his covers of popular songs, had pleaded guilty to one count of child pornography back in February.

In a plea agreement (see full document below), Jones admitted to convincing six underage girls to make and send pornographic tapes of themselves. He further admitted to using Facebook on approximately 30 other occasions to solicit other photographs and videos.

According to prosecutors, Jones told some of his victims that the videos were part of a modeling opportunity, and told them that sending the videos would boost their careers and help them gain followers on social media. In other instances, he told girls to send the videos to "prove" they were his "biggest fans."

"He admitted that he had used Facebook to have sexually explicit chats with the girls," the criminal complaint reads. "He directed them to make videos of themselves dancing in a sexually explicit way and instructed them on what to wear, say, and do in the videos, including performing sexual acts, knowing that they were fourteen to fifteen years old."

Some of the girls were as young as 14, the criminal complaint notes. In at least one instance, Jones asked a young girl to recite a monologue he had given her, which included disclosing her age. Jones sometimes referred to these videos as "tryouts."

During the high point of Jones's career, his YouTube account amassed more than 500,000 followers and combined video views reached in the tens of millions, enabling him to tour professionally. YouTube terminated his account after he pleaded guilty.

Jones's career stretches back to 2007, with initial reports of his inappropriate behavior first emerging in 2015. At the time, he asked young fans to send them videos of themselves "twerking." He apologized and said his requests had never escalated to sexual requests.

He was arrested in June 2017 at the O'hare International Airport by officials with Homeland Security Investigations. During a subsequent investigation, Jones waived his Miranda rights and admitted to enticing the girls to send the videos. He faced a maximum sentence of 20 years.

"Production and receipt of child pornography are extraordinarily serious offenses that threaten the safety of our children and communities," Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Neff Welsh said in a sentencing memorandum. "Jones' actions took something from his victims and their families that they will never be able to get back."