Austin Jones pleaded guilty to one count of receiving child pornography after admitting he coerced fans to create and send the explicit videos
Prosecutors had sought to lock up Jones, 26, for 11 years following his admission in February that he had online conversations with six underage girls on Facebook between 2016 and 2017. During those exchanges, he coerced the girls into making the videos for his benefit.
“He preyed on their youth, their vulnerabilities and most glaringly, their adoration of him, and he did it over and over again,” prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois said in a court filing last week, reports the Tribune. “He coached the girls on what to wear, what to say, how to dance and what to do in the videos.”
With more than 500,000 YouTube subscribers at the time, Jones, from the Chicago suburb of Bloomingdale, produced videos that were viewed millions of times. He told some of the girls they would have to “prove” their devotion to him by making and sending the explicit videos, and discussed with others that he could help them attract followers on Instagram, prosecutors said.
Jones admitted to authorities that he attempted to coerce minors on Facebook into providing him with the sexually explicit videos and photographs on approximately 30 different occasions.
A criminal complaint filed in 2017 detailed his alleged interactions with two victims, in 2016 and 2017, when they were 14. Both victims sent him multiple sexually explicit videos.
Jones initially faced two federal counts of producing child pornography upon his arrest in June 2017, but under a plea agreement he pleaded guilty to only one count of receipt of child pornography.
The conviction carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a possible maximum of 20 years.