In an online mea culpa posted for his millions of YouTube viewers in 2015, online celebrity and Bloomingdale resident Austin Jones admitted he had asked his fans — mostly teen and tween girls who loved his a cappella renditions of hit songs — for “twerking” videos, and soon after went into therapy.
But by 2016, Jones regularly spent hours chatting online with underage, female fans, coaching them on sexual poses and dance moves, and holding out the promise of modeling jobs, social media fame, and the 26-year-old singer’s attention, according to pre-sentencing documents filed in his case this week.
“I bet you had NO IDEA when you met me that just 1 day later you’d get to show me your (butt) how special do you feel,” Jones wrote in an August 2016 Facebook messenger exchange with a 14-year-old girl who had told the singer she was his “biggest fan.”
Federal prosecutors in their pre-sentencing documents included extensive excerpts from Jones’ online conversations with six underage girls — ages 14 to 15 — and said the singer admitted to reaching out to 30 other girls online, before he was arrested on child pornography charges at O’Hare Airport in 2017, as he got off a flight from a concert tour in Poland.
Prosecutors have asked for an 11-year prison sentence for the singer, who admitted to the illicit conversations with his teenage fans shortly after his arrest, and has since entered a guilty plea to a reduced charge of receiving child pornography. Jones is set to be sentenced on May 3.
Jones public shaming in 2015, which prompted a concert promoter to drop him from a tour, and subsequent treatment did not stop him from “grooming” his young fans online, prosecutors wrote in a 39-page memorandum. In addition to giving the girls suggestions for poses and underwear choices, Jones frequently gave them “lines” to recite that cited their young age, such as “Hi, Austin. I’m only 14” and “watch my 14-year-old butt bounce.”
“(Jones) preyed on their youth, their vulnerabilities, and most glaringly, their adoration of him, and he did it over and over again,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Neff Welsh wrote. Welsh noted that, in Jones’ favor, the singer did not appear to have shared the videos with others, and seemed to have deleted them soon after he received them.
The prosecutors’ filing also includes excerpts from a letter by the mother of a girl who sent eight videos of herself to Jones — a man the mother called “a parent’s worst nightmare.”
“She knows almost everything about him, watches his videos, comments and follows him on social media,” the mother wrote. “Then one day she gets a message from him asking her to prove she is his biggest fan by doing inappropriate things.”
In a 50-page memo filed Thursday, Jones’ attorney said the singer’s supposedly “happy life full of love and support” was, in reality, one “marred with abuse, pain, loss and death.” The attorney said Jones suffered physical, emotional, mental and sexual abuse at the hands relatives.
The abuse was compounded by the loss of his family’s home in a fire as well as the death of his 10-year-old sister, attorney Terrence LeFevour said. Jones’ lawyers have asked that the singer receive a sentence of five years.