YouTube star Austin Jones pleaded guilty to a child pornography charge on Friday and could now be facing years in prison.
Jones built up a huge following on YouTube by posting videos of himself singing over several years. He performed covers, medleys and original works ranging from big pop hits to heavy metal adaptations. In June of 2017, Jones was arrested for allegedly coercing some of his underage fans to send him pornographic videos of themselves, and according to a report by PEOPLE, the 26-year-old singer pleaded guilty.
Jones was charged with one count of receipt of child pornography on Friday, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison. A press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Illinois noted that the maximum sentence could be 20 years. Jones himself is based in Chicago.
Jones struck a plea agreement with prosecutors before Friday's hearing. He confessed to communicating with six underage girls through Facebook between 2016 and 2017. His sentencing is scheduled for May 3, 2019 in a federal court.
Jones used his online status and his hold over his fans to coerce them into making pornographic videos of themselves and send them to him.
In addition, Jones admitted that he tried his tactic on about 30 different occasions, asking girls as young as 14 years old to send him pictures and videos. Jones' messages asked the girls to "prove" how big of a fan they were with their submissions. In exchange, he promised to help get them more followers on Instagram.
Jones received the videos through Facebook Messenger. The court documents detail his instructions for one 14-year-old girl, asking her to lean in close to the camera, address him by name, introduce herself by name, and then say something to the effect of "this butt is 14 years old." He then asked the girl dance in the nude.
A transcript of Jones' conversation with another 14-year-old fan in August of 2016 showed his aggressive coercion tactics. After talking back and forth with a young girl for two days, he asked her to "prove" her fandom, adding, "I know you can do it!"
“How amazing that would be for you!! To have your favorite singer spanking your a–!” he allegedly wrote. “If you’re lucky, maybe I’d let you suck my d—.”
Claims like this against Jones go back to 2015, and many have risen up over since then. That year, Jones posted a video on YouTube titled "Setting The Record Straight," where he admitted to soliciting "twerking videos" from young fans.
“It’s not something that I’m proud of, it’s not something that I think is right, and I shouldn’t have done it,” he said.