Former Youtube star Austin Jones has been sentenced to ten years in a US federal prison after pleading guilty to persuading underage girls to send him explicit videos of themselves.
Jones, who made a name for himself online singing covers of songs, was arrested and charged in 2017 with two counts of producing child pornography.
He later pled guilty to one charge of receiving child pornography — admitting in a plea agreement that in 2016 and 2017 he enticed six girls to to produce and send explicit videos to “prove” they were his “biggest fan”, per Buzzfeed.
“Production and receipt of child pornography are extraordinarily serious offenses that threaten the safety of our children and communities,” it quotes assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Neff Welsh writing in a sentencing memo. “Jones’s actions took something from his victims and their families that they will never be able to get back.”
At the height of his YouTube fame Jones had around 540,000 subscribers to his channel and more than 20M video views.
In a 2015 apology vlog, after reports emerged of Jones asking young fans to send him twerking videos, he claimed it never went further than that. “There were never any nudes, never any physical contact, it never happened,” he said then.
But in his plea agreement Jones admitted to attempting to persuade more than thirty underage fans to send him explicit photos or videos.
YouTube removed Jones’ channel after he pled guilty in February — saying it had violated its community guidelines. But the Google -owned company initially refused to shutter it, telling the BBC a few days earlier that while it does have a policy of removing content when a person is convicted of a crime “in some cases” it does so only if the content is closely related to the crime committed.
Describing her experience in a vlog also posted to YouTube, one former fan she had received messages from Jones asking her for twerking videos prior to his 2015 apology video when she was 14-years-old.
“I just don’t understand how these people can let the fame get to their heads that much that they think it’s alright to do something to people like this,” she said. “It’s so messed up. But the fact that his fanbase was these vulnerable, insecure young girls makes it so much worse than it already is… He knew that that was his fanbase and he took advantage of that.”