US YouTube star gets 10 years in prison for child porn

CHICAGO (AFP) - A YouTube musical celebrity was sentenced on Friday (May 3) in a Chicago courtroom to 10 years in prison for enticing girls as young as 14 to produce sexually explicit videos of themselves.

Austin Jones, who posted online videos of himself performing songs for a fan base of primarily teenage girls, was arrested in 2017 and pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of child pornography.

As part of his plea, Jones admitted to a total of six identified victims and approximately 30 attempts to persuade other girls to send him child pornography, according to prosecutors.

A federal judge on Friday imposed a 10-year prison sentence on the 26-year-old, who could have gotten as little as five years or as many as 20, according to sentencing guidelines.

Prosecutors, pointing to text messages, alleged in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court that Jones targeted young girls under the pretence of "auditions" for modelling and other opportunities.

"I'm just trying to help you! 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," Jones told one 14-year-old victim via Facebook messenger, according to the court filing.

Prosecutors said Facebook tipped off the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about Jones's conversations with 14- and 15-year-old girls using the social media service's private messaging feature.

Jones's defence lawyers had asked that he be sentenced to five years on the basis of mitigating circumstances having to do with the man's childhood.

"Austin was a victim of sexual and emotional abuse by his father from age six until age 10. He was young, helpless and scared," his attorneys wrote in a court filing.

They claimed Jones suffered from severe depression and other mental health problems.