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YouTuber ProJared denies soliciting nude photos from minors (Updated)

(Image credit: ProJared)

Update: Three months after being accused of soliciting nude photos from minors, gaming YouTuber Jared 'ProJared' Knabenbauer has responded to the allegations with a video entitled, "You've been lied to." In it, he acknowledged that he exchanged nude photographs with his fans, but said that he "always made it clear that they were for consenting adults only."

Knabenbauer said he agreed to share the photos after numerous fans asked him to, in order to provide "a safe place for people who wished to express themselves in that way." He emphasizes in the video that people who sent him photos wanted to do so, and that he never specifically targeted or pursued anyone.

He also insisted that the offer was never meant to abuse the power imbalance between a popular content creator and a largely young fan base. "However, I want to acknowledge now that there was a power imbalance. That comes down to who I am and what I do,” he said.

“Even if there was nothing offered in return, there was still incentive for people to do it because I am a YouTuber. It doesn't matter how neutral the intent was, just being in this position causes a power imbalance. A lot of people saw that and were upset at me for that reason, and to those of you who feel that way, I completely understand how you feel and why you feel that way. And I'm sorry. I feel that what I was doing was not predatory, but it was unhealthy."

The bulk of the video is however dedicated to refuting two specific allegations that Knabenbauer solicited photos of two underage fans. He claimed to have no memory of speaking to one, Chai, and said that his search for evidence of correspondence with Chai came up empty. He also shared a Medium message in which Chai said that he suffered a serious accident during PE class, and alleged that the hallucinations and memory loss described by Chai make him an untrustworthy source.   

He acknowledged interacting with his second accuser, Charlie, but said that the screens Charlie posted to back up their claims "didn't sound right at all." He then shared his own images of the same conversation to show that he had asked Charlie about their age, and that Charlied lied in response—and that it was actually Charlie who targeted him, "unprompted, numerous times, for months." He also said that the images of the conversation indicate that he never actually sent a dick pic to Charlie.

Charlie has locked their Twitter account, saying in their bio: "just cuz i locked my account doesn’t mean shit i just don’t want more death threats lmao."

Knabenbauer said he apologized to the two accusers because in the initial shock of the accusations, he believed them too. He also said that he was not fired from the Normal Boots website but resigned to avoid negatively impacting its viewer count.

The full response video is below. The original story follows.

Original story:

Jared 'ProJared' Knabenbauer, a popular gaming YouTuber who before today had 1 million subscribers, has been accused of soliciting and receiving nude photos from underage fans. Knabenbauer has not commented on the allegations.

Yesterday, Knabenbauer's wife, cosplay star Heidi O’Ferrall, accused him of infidelity, citing it as the primary reason for the couple's pending divorce in a Twitter thread detailing the end of their relationship. O’Ferrall then brought up Knabenbauer's efforts to receive nude photos from fans, which she was aware of during their marriage.

"In the beginning, it was a joke on Tumblr," wrote O'Ferrall. "Then it was its own Tumblr account just for nudes. It was ostensibly a body-positive space for consenting adults, and I approved on that basis."

According to O'Ferrall, Knabenbauer's efforts "escalated" to the use of a private Snapchat, which she was initially unaware of and felt uncomfortable with. 

"I used to think that among consenting adults, it was fine," wrote O'Ferrall. "Now I see it as an abuse of power for him to intentionally manipulate anyone to show him their naked body on the basis that he's a popular internet man. I would like to apologize for my role in enabling this."

According to two former fans who chose to speak up in the wake of O'Ferrall's public criticism of the YouTube star, they were not consenting adults, and were actually underage when they exchanged nude photos with Knabenbauer.

One former fan who goes by the name Chai says that he had sexually explicit conversations with Knabenbauer at the age of 16, and that they exchanged nude photos. "He knew I was 16," said Chai.

In his statement, Chai references a friend who allegedly had a similar experience with ProJared. That friend, who goes by Charlie, subsequently released a statement detailing similar interactions.

Charlie, who was a "really, really big fan of ProJared" between the ages of 15 and 16, says that they do not recall Knabenbauer asking for their age after receiving nude photos. "He messaged me and thanked me and told me I was beautiful and all that shit," they wrote.

Charlie points out that because many of ProJared's fans were minors, openly soliciting nudes from them was bound to have this result. "I'm not proud of my actions," wrote Charlie, "but, as Chai stated, I was not the adult in this situation."

According to Charlie, that initial interaction led to further sexual conversations.

The two friends began collecting evidence of Knabenbauer's behavior sometime in or around 2018, some of which Charlie has posted on Twitter in the thread beneath their statement, and Chai says they had already been preparing to come forward before O'Ferrall's tweets. But those tweets, and the ensuing conversation around Knabenbauer's fan interactions, is what spurred them to come forward now.

Before this week, Chai had already informed NormalBoots about the inappropriate behavior. The YouTube collective, which ProJared belonged to, includes other popular channels such as Did You Know Gaming and Continue?. Chai published a screenshot of an email dated April 5 in which NormalBoots manager Jacque Khalil assures him that the matter is being taken seriously. 

Khalil confirmed to PC Gamer that Chai's complaint was received, and that ProJared is no longer affiliated with the group. He provided the following statement:

On April 4, 2019, an unsolicited e-mail was sent to the NormalBoots business account containing allegations of inappropriate conduct pertaining to Jared Knabenbauer.

Upon receiving the e-mail, NormalBoots Manager, Jacque Khalil took immediate action to alert the appropriate parties, including Mr. Knabenbauer and the NormalBoots legal team, of the allegations. No other members of NormalBoots were made aware of the allegations while the investigation into the allegations was ongoing.

NormalBoots understands the seriousness of this situation and does not condone any of the alleged actions of Mr. Knabenbauer.

Prior to these allegations being made public, actions and measures were in process to terminate the affiliation of Mr. Knabenbauer from NormalBoots and to update its internal social media use policies. Mr. Knabenbauer and NormalBoots have mutually agreed to part ways.

What drives NormalBoots is the energy of our supporters. We care greatly about their protection and safety. It’s impossible to have a true community if all of us don’t feel safe, whether it’s in an online space or a convention. We are fully committed to this goal and will not tolerate less.

ProJared's page on NormalBoots is now gone

Yesterday, ProJared posted a statement on Twitter about his divorce, though he did not address any specific accusations. "During this time you may see a lot of rumors, speculation and gossip going around," he wrote. "I ask that you make your own observations and come to your own conclusions." 

PC Gamer has contacted Knabenbauer for comment, and will update this article if he responds.

Recently, YouTube singer Austin Jones faced similar allegations. In a plea agreement, the musician admitted to soliciting explicit videos from underage fans, in some cases telling them that the videos were a way "to 'prove' they were his biggest fans," according to the Northern District of Illinois US Attorney’s Office. Earlier this month, Jones was sentenced to 10 years in prison for "receipt of child pornography."

Following the accusation of infidelity and alleged abuse of his status to solicit nude photos, ProJared's YouTube subscriber count has dropped significantly, and continues to fall