Cody Wilson, a self-described anarchist who fought the U.S. government to legalize “downloadable” 3-D printed firearms, has been arrested overseas on a charge of paying for sex with a 16-year-old girl in Texas, authorities announced.
Police apprehended Wilson in a hotel in Taipei, Tawan, where Austin police had accused him of fleeing to several days earlier, when he learned he was being investigated for sexual assault of a minor, according to the Associated Press.
“We don’t know why he went to Taiwan, but we do know that before he left, he was informed by a friend of the victim she had spoken to police,” Austin police commander Troy Officer said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, as U.S. Marshals put Wilson’s face on a wanted poster.
Hours earlier, authorities had publicly accused Wilson, 30, of paying the teenager $500 for sex in a hotel last month in Austin after the two met on a dating website, according to an arrest warrant affidavit that was filed Wednesday in district court in Travis County, Tex.
Wilson faces a charge of sexual assault, a second-degree felony, according to the court documents.
Officer said Wilson had already left the country by the time the warrant was secured and has since failed to board his scheduled flight back to the United States. The Associated Press reported Thursday that Taiwanese officials were searching the country for him.
The girl’s “counselor” — it was unclear in what capacity — first alerted police to the situation, Officer said. Court documents state that she subsequently told police she met Wilson on SugarDaddyMeet.com and that she started exchanging messages with him.
“We have no reason to believe at this point anyone other than the victim signed herself up” on the site, Officer said. SugarDaddyMeet.com advertises matchups between “rich and successful men” and “young and attractive women.” Its policies forbid minors and prostitutes, though the site conducts no background checks.
The teen told investigators that Wilson used the username “Sanjuro” but that, during the conversation, he gave her his full name and told her he was a “big deal.” She said she did not know who he was until she looked him up online, according to court records.
The teen told investigators that the two met in person Aug. 15 at a coffee shop and then drove to the Archer Hotel in north Austin, the court records state. Surveillance footage showed the two walking through the hotel about 8:30 p.m., according to the court records. Once inside the hotel room, the teen told police, “she and Wilson engaged in sexual intercourse and oral sex on the hotel room’s bed.”
The teenager said Wilson then gave her five $100 bills, according to the court records.
About 10 p.m., Wilson drove to a Whataburger, authorities said.
At the news conference, Officer did not explain who the girl’s “friend” was or how she allegedly tipped Wilson off that police knew about the sex.
Over the past few months, Wilson has made national headlines amid a heated debate about 3-D-printed firearms. His company, Defense Distributed, has been entangled in an ongoing legal battle.
As The Washington Post’s Deanna Paul reported last month:
For the past five years, the 30-year-old self-described “little anarchist in Austin” has been battling the most formidable of opponents — the U.S. government. His cause: Legalize the distribution of weapon-design files that allow Americans to 3-D-print firearms at home, avoiding layers of federal and state gun-control policies like permits and background checks.
Now, Wilson is being sued by a dozen states in four courts.
It’s the climax of years of litigation that began in 2013, when Wilson built his first fully printed gun and published the blueprint files on defcad.com, an online community where users upload and download designs. A week later, the federal government stepped in demanding he remove them.
Wilson says publishing information for the production of firearms is protected speech under the First Amendment.
“We don’t err on the side of censorship in this country,” he said.
But his critics say his plan could put unregulated and difficult-to-detect weapons in the wrong hands, creating a public safety crisis.
“It makes no sense to make downloadable guns available to any felon, domestic abuser or terrorist,” said Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, one of many who have sued to stop the distribution of Wilson’s 3-D gun designs.
On Aug. 27, a federal judge sided with more than a dozen attorneys general, blocking Wilson from releasing blueprints for printable firearms. A day later, Wilson doubled down — telling reporters that he had started to sell the files online.
Although the Seattle court barred Wilson from giving away the files, it offered several alternatives to permissibly transfer the same information.
According to the court’s order: “Files cannot be uploaded to the internet, but they can be emailed, mailed, securely transmitted, or otherwise published within the United States” — all of which Wilson said he intends to do.
“I’m happy to do anything that the judge has permitted,” said Wilson, calling the 25-page order an “authorization” of his operation. “The judge was very gracious to put that in black letter for me.”
This article has been updated with news of Wilson’s arrest.