Pop star held on charges of encouraging teen girls to send him racy videos
CHICAGO (AP) — A 24-year-old suburban Chicago singer with millions of teenage followers online faces child pornography charges for allegedly instructing two young female fans via social media to make sexually explicit videos of themselves and send them to him, according to a federal complaint released Tuesday.
Austin Jones of Bloomingdale appeared in U.S. District Court in Chicago wearing orange jail clothes and ankle chains. Asked by U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Mason if he understood he's charged with two counts of production of child pornography, he answered quietly, "Yes, your honor."
The fans are referred to in the complaint as "Victim A" and "Victim B," and they were around 14 years old when Jones allegedly encouraged them to make the videos by — in one instance — telling one he wanted her to prove what she said about being his "biggest fan," the complaint said.
Some of Jones' music videos have garnered millions of views on YouTube and he's parlayed his online popularity into tours, most recently to parts of Europe. He does original music and also covers the work of Justin Bieber and others. He has 228,000 Twitter followers and his "primary fan base appears to be teenage girls," the complaint said.
Jones was arrested Monday at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and he remains in a federal jail in Chicago. A bond hearing was set for Wednesday and prosecutors said they'll oppose his release. Jones didn't have his own lawyer and will enter a plea at an upcoming arraignment.
Each of the two counts of production of child pornography carries a minimum 15-year prison sentence and a maximum of 30 years.
In incidents in May 2017, and August 2016, the complaint alleges, he directed the girls how to perform sex acts, even telling them what to wear and say; he spoke about the videos as "try outs."
On several occasions, both victims expressed reservations about what they were doing, but Jones encouraged them to continue; Victim A told Jones repeatedly that she was only 14, the filing said. And Jones appeared to understand what they were doing was wrong, telling Victim B, "I seriously shouldn't be talking to you," according to the complaint.
"I'm just trying to help you!" he allegedly wrote in an online chat with Victim B about his detailed directions, according to the complaint. "I know you're trying your hardest to prove you're my biggest fan. And I don't want to have to find someone else."