Cody Wilson resigned Friday as CEO of Defense Distributed following a recent sexual assault charge and will have no future role in the 3D-printed gun company, its new director said Tuesday.
Paloma Heindorff, the company’s vice president of operations, will replace him as director.
“I am extremely proud to say that over the past few days the entire team a Defense Distributed has recommitted to enabling the sharing and publication of CAD and 3D-printed firearms,’ Heindorff said at a news conference Tuesday. “This resilience, I truly believe to not only been characteristic of our company as a whole, but also the ideas that we have worked so hard to promote.”
Wilson, 30, was charged last week with sexual assaulting a 16-year-old girl who he met on the website SugarDaddyMeet.com in August, an arrest affidavit filed in Travis County district court alleges.
Police say he met the girl at a South Austin coffee shop, then took her to the Archer hotel in North Austin, where she said he paid her $500 after they had sex.
Authorities believe Wilson fled the country after learning of the criminal investigation.
He was arrested by Taiwanese police on Friday at a hotel in the Wanhua District of Taipei and was brought back to the United States by U.S. Marshals. He was booked into the Harris County Jail in Houston on Sunday and was released after posting $150,000 bail, records show.
His arrest warrant stipulated that he submit to GPS monitoring, surrender his passport and have no contact with the victim.
Heindorff on Tuesday would not answer questions about Wilson’s sexual assault case, referring all inquiries to his private attorneys.
“We expect that the company will continue to grow and do its work,” Wilson’s attorney Samy Khalil said in a statement Tuesday. “In the meantime, we plan to focus on Cody’s defense.”
Heindorff said the company would not be paying for any of his legal expenses but would use the $400,000 it had raised so far from donations to fight the federal court case against it.
The nonprofit Defense Distributed has been embroiled in legal battles for years since Wilson first posted plans for his 3D-printed gun, the Liberator, online in 2013.
The State Department under President Barack Obama had initially barred the release of information, citing trade laws violations, but later backed off under President Donald Trump and reached a settlement this year that allowed the blueprints to be posted online.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia sued the Trump administration to dissolve the settlement, saying the weapons could be used by criminals or terrorists.
Defense Distributed began selling the plans for any amount of money through its website, despite a federal court order from August barring their release.
Heindorff said the company would continue on the same track to make its 3D-printed gun plans publicly available online, despite Wilson’s leaving the company.
“He’s been an incredibly powerful figurehead,” Heindorff said. “But this is about an idea.”
She said Defense Distributed had received about 3,000 orders for its weapons plans since the court order and that her team has been “shipping them out like crazy.”
“I cannot be more proud of my team right now,” she said. “We didn’t miss a beat. No one blinked. No one has missed a day at work. We’ve all come in. We’re still shipping. We have no intention of stopping.”
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence issued a statement following Wilson’s resignation, saying it would continue to fight the release of 3D-printed gun plans.
“Cody Wilson was the face of Defense Distributed and 3D-printed guns, but we doubt that his movement will die with his resignation,” it said. “Because of his actions, 3D-printed guns now pose a danger all over the world, from the United States to Europe to Taiwan. The next Cody Wilson is merely waiting in the wings, and we will continue to do everything in our power to combat this threat until it is no more.”
Defense Distributed’s attorney John Blackman would not say whether the company planned to appeal the federal court decision.
“We are confident that we will prevail,” he said. “We have the first and second amendments on our side.”
Heindorff previously worked in the creative industry in New York City before moving to Austin to work for the nonprofit Defense Distributed. She called its efforts to fight the federal government the “most elegant and effective activism” she had ever seen.
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