Following his arrest Tuesday, a cappella singer Austin Jones was revealed as the Anthony Weiner of YouTube, except even creepier, and far more harmful.
Jones is being charged with two counts of child pornography after requesting and receiving nude videos of underage fans, according to The Chicago Sun Times. The court filing details a disturbing correspondence between two 14-year-old girls, where he taught them how to twerk and then cajoled them into sending progressively more explicit videos. He made them say things like “this butt is only 14” as they danced on camera naked, according to court filings.
But this story was not surprising to a number of girls who blew the whistle on Jones’ creepy behavior in 2015. For years, Jones, 24, has been messaging his underage female fans and using his modest YouTube fame to get them to make twerking videos, using the same modus operandi every time.
Austin Jones has been making YouTube videos for about four years and has over 500,000 subscribers. He covers popular alternative rock songs by bands like My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy, making a cappella versions by recording himself singing various portions of the song then playing each video simultaneously in a Hollywood Squares layout.
His YouTube fame allowed him to recently launch an international tour, playing a show in Berlin earlier this month.
Jones was first exposed as a creep in 2015 after a number of women posted screen shots on Twitter of conversations and videos he had sent them. At the time, none of the requests or videos contained nudity. A popular YouTuber named Damon Fizzy helped share their stories and increase visibility. A Change.org petition compiling the accusations got Jones kicked off the Van’s Warped Tour.
But after the dust settled, Jones career flourished.
In 2014, Taylor, 18, was propositioned by Jones to make twerking videos.
“I was 15 and was super excited this moderately famous asshole was messaging me on Facebook,” she said. “I didn’t have the mental capacity to know this was fucked up.”
She first reached out to Jones, who was 21 at the time, after he posted a message about how he was depressed on his Facebook page. She told him to cheer up and he responded telling her she was attractive. She told him she was 15 right away, but soon he asked her to make a twerking video for her.
Taylor refused and Jones offered to send an “instructional video” (below) in order to teach her how, which she later posted online.
Luckily for Taylor, she ended the conversation there, but many young girls did not.
Jones kept a mechanically consistent formula for soliciting videos. He first would reply to one of the hundreds of girls messaging him on social media. He asked for the girl’s age and then requested a video. To convince the fan, he’d send her an instructional video of himself twerking. If that didn’t work he would try to guilt trip her, telling her how lucky she is he was talking to her out of all his thousands of fans. Then if that didn’t work, he’d bring up his mental health, citing depression or thoughts of suicide, telling her that these videos are the only thing that could make him happy.
Once he lured a girl in, he requests she wear Ugg boots, a tank top and short shorts, then to tell him her age on camera as she twerks.
It is unknown how many girls gave Jones videos. There’s about ten who came forward about propositions on social media, and the two he’s being charged for soliciting nude videos.
Ashley Bermudez, 16, was only 13 when Jones reached out to her in 2014. She has an almost identical story to Taylor and also did not send Jones any twerking videos of herself.
“It started out as a normal conversation,” Ashley said. “He asked me about my hobbies, then asked if I like dancing, then asked if I like twerking.”
Ashley told him she was uncomfortable, and he replied “I gave you my iMessage, isn’t that enough” implying a personal contact line was enough of a payment for the video. He also sent her an instructional video of how to twerk.
this is what he wanted me to delete LMAOOO pic.twitter.com/eziE67WWm3
— ashloo (@ashIeybermudez) May 11, 2015
In 2015, Ashley, Taylor and a number of other girls posted screenshots of messages and videos they received from Jones, which were then shared around Twitter and YouTube.
Jones contacted the girls and begged them to delete the videos. He told Taylor he checked into a psyche ward because of the response he was getting for getting called out. Ashley said on Twitter that he called her 87 times and she posted one of the messages.
— ashloo (@ashIeybermudez) May 10, 2015
Some of Jones’ most ardent fans harassed his accusers online, saying they were making it up and doing it to get attention, but the videos speak for themselves.
Jones was removed from the lineup of Van’s Warped Tour, following public outcry. He eventually made a public statement, saying he never requested any nude videos from his fans.
To my friends, fans and family,
I wanted to explain why I’ve been off of social media and have taken a break from my music.
I’ve been in therapy, seeking help to discover why I communicated with my fans in a way that I have come to fully realize was not appropriate.
I’d have conversations online with girls that would involve me asking them to create a video of themselves twerking. Sometimes I’d make videos of myself doing some twerk moves in return.
Here’s the truth: I NEVER asked them to do anything more than send a twerking video. Nothing EVER went beyond that.
According to Taylor and Ashley, some of the other parents attempted to get the police involved, but the cops did not think the twerking videos themselves constituted a sex crime.
It took a full two years before Jones was finally brought to justice for his behavior towards his underage fans.
“When Jones finally got arrested, at first I thought thank god,” Taylor said. “Then I got hung up on how he could have gotten stopped two years ago, two years of victims prevented, if they believed us the first time.”
You can read the full case filing against Jones here. It’s absolutely disgusting.