YouTube star Austin Jones pleads guilty to child porn charge

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By Kalhan Rosenblatt

YouTube star Austin Jones, best known for his a cappella covers, has pleaded guilty to a child pornography charge, his lawyer said on Monday.

Jones, now 26, was accused of using Facebook Messenger and Apple’s iMessage services to solicit videos from girls between the ages of 14 and 15, in which they exposed their genitals, when he was 24 years old.

On Friday, he entered a guilty plea in an Illinois federal court to one child pornography charge and could face at least five years in prison, according to the Chicago Tribune.

In some cases, Jones coerced the girls to send him explicit videos by telling them they had to prove their fandom to him.

The singer amassed a following on YouTube with covers of songs like “Sugar, We’re Going Down” by Fall Out Boy and “Sorry” by Justin Bieber. Many of his slickly edited videos are split into 16 frames, with Jones recreating a different part of the song in each frame.

Jones’ YouTube channel has more than 534,000 subscribers and his videos have amassed nearly 41 million views. As of Monday, the channel was still up on the site, but videos haven’t been uploaded since 2017.

The initial criminal complaint against Jones, which was filed in 2017, details how the YouTuber allegedly coerced several girls to send him videos of herself while repeating details about their age in the video.

One 14-year-old girl sent Jones approximately 15 videos, 10 of which are explicit, according to the court records.

In an exchange with another 14-year-old victim, Jones writes, “Wait … you’re 14?”

The girl responded, “Yea I’m a youngster.”

In that conversation, Jones acknowledged he shouldn’t be talking to her due to her age, repeatedly told the girl that she was “so lucky” she had his attention, and then told her she would have to “prove” that she was his biggest fan, according to the court documents.

Later, Jones told the girl, “If you’re lucky, maybe I’d let you suck my d—.” When the girl said she didn’t want either of them to get in trouble over the videos she was making, he replied, “I guess you really aren’t my biggest fan …..ok then.”

The complaint says in those videos, the girl’s genitals are exposed.

Court documents obtained by the Tribune show that Jones acknowledged he had conversations online with six girls, whose ages are either 14 or 15. Jones’ lawyer said that his client had been sexually abused by a close relative and he had not properly dealt with his own trauma, the Tribune reported.

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