Former YouTube Star Austin Jones Sentenced to 10 Years For Child Porn

May 4, 2019 Updated: May 4, 2019

Former YouTube star Austin Jones was sentenced on May 3 to 10 years in prison for coercing girls to send him sexually explicit videos of themselves.

The disgraced 26-year-old singer from Bloomingdale, Illinois, had hundreds of thousands of followers on his YouTube channel for his song covers, from Justin Bieber to Fallout Boy. His music videos had millions of views.

Jones was arrested in June 2017 and charged with two counts of production of child pornography. In the criminal complaint that led to his arrest, one girl who was only 14 at the time said she made 15 videos for Jones. Federal authorities said in the complaint that the other victim had sent Jones a total of 25 videos, eight of which were sexually explicit.

Jones was released from custody on a $100,000 bond after his arrest, where he was then confined to his house and was not allowed to use the Internet.

In February this year, he pleaded guilty to one count of receipt of child pornography. In a plea agreement, he said that in 2016 and 2017, he had enticed six girls to send him sexually explicit photos and videos to prove that they were his biggest fan.

He also admitted that he had tried to persuade other fans who were underage to do the same on about 30 other occasions. Following Jones’s guilty plea, YouTube terminated his channel which had more than 300,000 followers.

Jones also told some of the girls that the videos they sent could open up modeling opportunities for them and that he could help them gain followers on Instagram.

“Today’s sentencing of Austin Jones represents a major step towards justice for the young victims whom he manipulated and exploited,” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge James Gibbons said in a statement on May 3.

Double the Minimum Sentence

Jones faced a minimum mandatory sentence of five and a maximum of 10 years. Prosecutors wanted 11 years, while Jones’s lawyers sought the minimum five years. After the sentencing hearing in federal court in Chicago, U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee decided on 10.

“I don’t think it’d be an exaggeration to say the victims here were probably some of his biggest fans, who cared so much about him, and yet for whom Mr. Jones cared so little,” Lee said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“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 argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum.

“Jones’s actions took something from his victims and their families that they will never be able to get back.”

Remorse?

Jones’s lawyers said that he was genuinely remorseful, and noted that he had committed to therapy. They also emphasized to the court Jones’s history as a victim of abuse—his father, now deceased, had molested him for years when Jones was a child. As such, they said, Jones’s actions should be understood in this context.

“[Jones’s father] was an evil, evil person, and the damage he did to his son had just radiated throughout this entire case,” attorney Terrence LeFevour said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

But Lee said that Jones should have then understood the consequences of his own abusive conduct owing to what he had been through.

“I realize that you yourself suffered a great deal while you were growing up, and I’m deeply sorry for the treatment you received from your own father,” Lee said, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“But Mr. Jones, you of all people should know the tremendous harm that you were causing these girls that you targeted and preyed upon when you were doing it.”

Near the end of the court hearing, Jones asked Lee’s permission to address his victims directly. But the victims said they would rather he faced away from them, so he did.

“The absolute hardest thing for me to live with is knowing that I’ve created boxes for other people,” he said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “To the victims of my actions, I want to say I’m so deeply sorry. All you ever did was support me, and I exploited that support. … I was so selfish.”

If you believe you are a victim of sexual exploitation, you are encouraged to call the ICE Tip Line at 1-866-DHS2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678. The hotlines are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Follow Mimi on Twitter: @MimiNguyenLy
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