10 years in prison for Bloomingdale YouTube singer in child pornography case
A 26-year-old former YouTube star from Bloomingdale was sentenced this week to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges stemming from online video chats he had with six teen girls in which they sent him explicit videos.
Federal authorities arrested Austin Jones on child pornography charges in June 2017; he faced a punishment of five to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty in February 2019 to receiving child pornography.
In a sentencing hearing Friday in federal court in Chicago, prosecutors argued for an 11-year term, while defense attorney Terrence LeFevour argued for the minimum. Judge John Lee decided on 10 years.
According to court records, Jones, then 24, admitted to authorities that "he had used Facebook to have sexually explicit chats with the girls; that 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; that he requested that they send the sexually explicit videos to him, either via Facebook or Apple's iMessage service; and that he received the videos (and) viewed them."
U.S. Attorney John Lausch argued in a late-April sentencing memorandum that Jones has not changed since his apology in 2015 after allegations surfaced that he was soliciting videos from underage fans.
"Jones was essentially caught in the same behavior once before, publicly brought to task for it, and despite a period of hospitalization and treatment, went back to producing child pornography," Lausch wrote. "The defendant's statements to the Probation Office that he committed these crimes because he was 'mentally intoxicated' with seeing how much influence he had with others, and that he was seeking a 'feeling of importance' and 'looking for attention' are cause for concern."
LeFevour said his client had accepted responsibility for his actions, had no previous criminal history, and suffered from anxiety and panic attacks after being sexually abused by his father as a child.
LeFevour noted that Jones' paternal grandparents also were verbally and physically abusive while he temporarily lived with them while his parents divorced, and he said Jones had helped scores of fans confront and overcome their own struggles.
"Austin deeply appreciated and cared for his fans and routinely went out of his way to try and help them. Austin was connected to his fans because he saw so much of himself in them, their struggle, their depression, their pain," wrote LeFevour in a court records. "In their letters to him they articulate their heartfelt gratitude for making them feel less alone, less emotionally conflicted and less terrified. It is imperative to remember that in some cases Mr. Jones was the reason they chose not to take their own lives."
Some of Jones' music videos garnered millions of views on YouTube, which he parlayed into tours. He released his first album in 2010, and in the spring of 2014 an EP of his work made a Billboard chart for new artists.
Jones is due back in court Monday for testimony from mental health treatment providers as to when he should begin serving his prison term.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.