A Texas gun rights activist whose quest to spread the availability of 3D printed guns sparked a legal battle, has been charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl and appears to have gone on the run.
A warrant was issued on Wednesday for the arrest of Cody Wilson. Texas police are now working with national and international law enforcement partners to locate the gun rights advocate, whose last known location was Taipei, Taiwan, an Austin police official said.
Wilson messaged an underaged girl through the website SugarDaddyMeet.com, had sex with her in an Austin, Texas, hotel on 15 August 2018, and gave her $500, according to an affidavit by an Austin police detective filed in Travis county district court on Wednesday.
Wilson, 30, identified himself to the young victim and told her that he was a “big deal”, according to the affidavit.
Wilson was informed by a friend of the victim that police were investigating him for having sex with a minor, and he missed a scheduled flight back to the US, commander Troy Officer of the Austin police department’s organized crime division said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Police obtained footage of Wilson and the victim in the hotel on 15 August and matched the photograph on the SugarDaddyMeet.com profile to Wilson’s driver’s license photo, according to the affidavit. According to the detectives who interviewed the alleged victim: “If someone mistakes her age, it’s because they think she’s younger, not older than the 16-year-old she is.”
Wilson has been charged with a second-degree felony that is punishable by two to 20 years in prison, Officer said.
While he is best known as a gun rights activist, Wilson also founded Hatreon, a now-defunct website that allowed neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other extremist figures to solicit crowdfunding online.
Austin’s advocacy for 3D printing guns had made him a minor celebrity in tech circles for years. In 2012, when he was 24, Wired magazine named him one of the “15 most dangerous people in the world”. While Wilson did not invent the concept of 3D printing plastic guns, as the magazine noted, he had made himself their most prominent, media-savvy international defender. He framed his efforts to refine a 3D printed plastic gun and make blueprints for these guns widely available as a free speech issue.
In 2013, after Wilson uploaded a plan for a 3D printed gun to the website of Defense Distributed, a group he founded, the state department ordered him to take the plans down. Defense Distributed claimed at the time the plans had already been downloaded more than 100,000 times.
This summer, in the wake of several high-profile mass shootings, Wilson announced that his protracted legal battle with the state department had been settled in his favor, and that Defense Distributed would repost the plans for 3D printed guns on 1 August. In celebration, he tweeted an image of a bouquet of flowers resting in front of a supposed memorial to “American gun control”.
— Cody R. Wilson (@Radomysisky) July 10, 2018
Gun control organizations and Democratic lawmakers reacted to Wilson’s announcement with outrage and high-profile campaigns to stop him from publicizing the plans. A group of state attorneys general sued Wilson to block the publication of the blueprints.
Hours before Wilson had said the plans would be made public, a US district judge issued a temporary restraining order stopping them from being shared. On 27 August , the judge extended the ban with a preliminary injunction blocking the publication of blueprints. Wilson told reporters in late August he was finding ways around the injunction to share the plans for a small fee, rather than posting them free of charge online. The Defense Distributed website urges supporters to back their legal fight with financial donations.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors American hate groups, lists Wilson’s Defense Distributed group among other “anti-government extremists” based on Wilson’s “stated anti-government beliefs”.
“Wilson has made a consistent point of allying himself with luminaries of the anti-government and hate movements in the US,” Keegan Hankes, an SPLC senior research analyst, told the Guardian, noting that “he typically plays his affiliations with such groups off as coincidental to his crypto-anarchist ambitions.”
Last year, in the wake of the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Wilson told Talking Points Memo that the site was a passion project and claimed he devoted $12,000 a month of his own money to support it.
Wilson further described himself as “sympathetic” to the “alt-right”, though not rightwing himself, and said he founded Hatreon so the “alt-right” could “have a leg in this conversation and not be banished from the internet”.