Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed at his workshop in Austin, Texas, in August 2018.
Photo: Eric Gay (AP)

 Cody Wilson, the self-identified “crypto-anarchist” CEO of 3D-printed gun organization Defense Distributed, has resigned following his arrest in Taiwan over charges of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in Texas.

Wilson is the activist behind Defense Distributed’s ongoing legal battle with the government over its plans to release free blueprints for small arms that can be produced by 3D printers and CNC-milling machines on the internet. Authorities accuse him of paying a 16-year-old girl he met on the website SugarDaddy.com for sex, but it wasn’t until Wilson fled to Taiwan and was allegedly recognized while trying to rent an apartment that he was arrested. At a press conference on Tuesday, Defense Distributed officials said he had resigned his role there, the Verge reported:

Paloma Heindorff will serve as the new CEO of the firearm company going forward, having previously served as director of development.

“It was his own decision and we support him in it,” Heindorff said. “Going forward, he has no role in the company.” She declined to comment on the charges against Wilson, but described internal morale as “resilient.”

Defense Distributed’s case is still the subject of active litigation, but it entails a complicated legal battle between the firm, Donald Trump’s administration, and state prosecutors over whether publishing the small-arms blueprints to the global internet violates federal export controls. While the White House ended a Barack Obama-era lawsuit to keep Defense Distributed’s gun plans off the web, prosecutors in 19 states and the District of Columbia claim that the administration’s settlement with the company violated regulatory rules and circumvented their Tenth Amendment right to regulate firearms.

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A federal judge blocked Wilson from releasing the blueprints online last month pending the outcome of the case, though Defense Distributed said it would continue mailing the blueprints to interested buyers.

Wilson was leading the charge in that case and his departure leaves its status unclear, though according to the New York Times, Defense Distributed says it still has a brisk business in digital gun blueprints and will continue fighting in court. Whatever the litigation’s outcome, the legal battles represent a watershed change in the fight over gun laws generally. As academic and DIY firearms expert Mark A. Tallman told Mother Jones last year, “At some point this will be about smuggling tools, information, and knowledge rather than the guns themselves.”

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As the Verge noted, Wilson is also the founder of Hatreon. That’s the invite-only crowdfunding website set up to allow the various neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other extremist activists that comprise the so-called alt right to continue collecting donations after they were booted from platforms like Patreon and Kickstarter in the aftermath of a disastrous far-right rally in Charlottesville in 2017. It also hasn’t done so well.

According to Think Progress, Hatreon stopped processing donations earlier this year. As of the time of this article’s writing, its main page currently displays a notice reading “This site’s services were suspended by VISA in November of 2017. You may request to be notified via email should we become active again.”

Wilson successfully posted a $150,000 bond, though if convicted he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years and could be prohibited from owning guns for life, according to the Times.

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[The Verge]