Even as he was making plans to rent a Taipei apartment last week, it appears that Cody Wilson had already severed all ties with the controversial 3D gun printing company he founded in 2012.
The DIY gun pioneer resigned from Defense Distributed as of Friday to address "some personal legal effects," Paloma Heindorff said at a news conference on Tuesday, before announcing that she was stepping into Wilson's role.
Heindorff, formerly the company's director of development and vice president of operations, is now at the helm of Defense Distributed.
"I feel incredibly confident," Heindorff said, when asked about her ability to lead the firm currently entangled in a number of legal challenges across the country for selling and publishing blueprints online for making plastic guns.
"He has been an incredibly powerful figurehead, but I think what's important to concentrate on here is that this is about an idea," she said, referring to Wilson, whose face and name have become synonymous with the 3D gun printing debate. "Everyone who works for our company — and there's a lot of people here who work for our company — we believe in something, and that something isn't one man."
"I'm a different person. I'm not trying to replace him as a character," she added.
The change in leadership follows Wilson's arrest in Taiwan and deportation to the U.S. last Friday to face charges of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in Austin. The 30-year-old had reportedly fled after having been tipped off that the girl had spoken to law enforcement about their alleged encounter. She told authorities the pair had met on SugarDaddyMeet.com — a website devoted to connecting older, wealthy men with young women — and that he had paid her $500 for sex.
During his brief stint abroad, he attempted to make a down payment on an apartment by posing as a student, Arstechnica reported. But he was apprehended by Taiwan police officers aided by the U.S. State Department Security Service, according to the (Austin) Statesman.
Wilson was released Sunday from the Harris County Jail in Houston after posting a $150,000 bond. As NPR's Sasha Ingber reported, video footage shows him walking out of the jail with a smile.
Heindorff insisted that the criminal charges against Wilson have had little impact on the company's financial success, disclosing that it is currently fulfilling 3,000 orders and that it "will continue to sell the blueprints."
She also shed some light on her past, explaining that her background included spoken-word poetry.
A biography of Heindorff says she is from Hackney in London and that she moved to New York City in 2015. It describes her as a person who "takes inspiration from the strength we have as individuals and how we can use those strengths to overcome the struggles of modern life."
Heindorff said she was drawn to Austin "specifically to work with Defense Distributed."
"I found it to be the most elegant and effective activism that I've seen performed and I wanted to be a part of that," she said.
If convicted, Wilson faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.