A Singaporean who was granted asylum in the US exchanged nude photos and “thousands” of messages with a 14-year-old Texas girl while he was living in Chicago, according to police.
Amos Yee, 20, a former actor, gained international notoriety when he was jailed at 16 in Singapore for controversial and obscene online posts he made following the death of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 2015.
He was jailed again in 2016 for “wounding religious feelings” over his social media posts on Christianity and Islam.
Yee fled Singapore a day before he was due to report for a medical examination ahead of enlistment into national service. He was granted asylum in the US and has been living in Chicago for three years, reports the Chicago Sun Times.
Yee started a now-removed YouTube channel for paedophiles. In a post last year, he discussed rumours of an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old girl.
“He argued that even if he did sexually abuse her, it does not change that there is nothing immoral about paedophilia,” prosecutors said.
Yee’s public defender described him as an “internet troll” who is “all over the internet saying fantastic things. Anything he says online should be taken with scepticism.”
Prosecutors in Illinois obtained messages from last year that included nude photos he requested and received from the girl and nude photos of himself that he sent her.
The girl repeatedly mentioned her age in the messages, prosecutors said.
She eventually contacted a “paedophile-hunter” group, and Yee was arrested last week.
At his arraignment, the judge said the charges indicated he was significantly more than an “online troll”.
Yee is currently held on US$1 million (RM4 million) bail and banned from using the internet while awaiting trial in November.
If convicted, Yee’s asylum status could be terminated.
In a Facebook post on Friday, New York-based Singaporean activist Melissa Chen, a former advocate of Yee, wrote that she had been first alerted to Yee’s alleged activity anonymously more than a year ago, by an individual from the community of “MAP (minor-attracted people) hunters”, reports the Straits Times.
“I took the allegations seriously, responded and verified the accusations. After speaking with the young victim, I was broken. I vowed to do all I could to get her justice and remove him from society,” she wrote.
Chen had assisted Yee in his political asylum application, but later called for him to be deported from the US over his championing of paedophilia.