Former ‘Cheer’ star Jerry Harris was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to sex crimes involving minors,. He will also spend eight years on probation.
in February to a child pornography charge after he persuaded a minor to send him sexually explicit photographs in exchange for money. He also pleaded guilty to a travel charge of illicit sex with minors, stemming from a trip he took to Florida for the purpose of ‘engaging in illicit sexual conduct’ with a 15-year-old. , reports the Associated Press.
A plea deal led prosecutors to drop five other federal charges against Harris.
The 22-year-old has been held in a federal detention center without bail since he wasin September 2020.
Born Jeremiah Harris, he shot to fame when he and his teammates were featured in the Emmy-winning docuseries “Cheer,” which follows the life of the Navarro cheer squad. Harris even attended the Oscars in 2020 as a personality on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
However, following a lengthy FBI investigation, he was arrested in September 2020 and charged with one count of producing child pornography.
The federal complaint alleged that Harris contacted a minor in 2018 and asked for “face” and “loot” photos, even after the minor told him he was 13. In the complaint, the minor said he sent Harris dozens of photos over more than a year. The minor also told investigators that Harris cornered him in a bathroom during a cheerleading contest and attempted to solicit him for oral sex.
The minor refused, and Harris reportedly made the same request in another contest three months later. According to the complaint, Harris blocked the minor on Snapchat in February 2020, a month after “Cheer” was released on Netflix, and messaged him saying, “I’m sorry for what I’ve done in the past. I don’t think it’s a good idea that we’re friends on Snap.”
A second minor, who is the first minor’s twin, also accused Harris of asking for nude photos.
In the complaint, investigators said Harris admitted to several allegations, including asking for nude photos, trying to solicit oral sex at cheerleading events, and receiving child pornography from 10 to 15 other children he he knew minors.
In December 2020, Harris wason seven additional counts alleging he solicited sex from minors at cheerleading competitions and worked to get young boys to send him photos and videos.
In the final season of “Cheer,” the two minors listed in the first federal complaint were revealed to be twin cheerleaders Charlie and Sam. Both twins described being hesitant to speak out against Harris due to his popularity growing, but Charlie said after seeing him speak with then-presidential candidate Joe Biden during an interview in June 2020, he “lost him” and knew he had to do something.
“I want to show the world, give people a face, when they think of Jerry Harris, what he did,” Charlie said.
“It’s not just a handful of times that’s happened,” Kristen, Charlie and Sam’s mother, told CBS Chicago. “It was an incredibly persistent predator that imposed itself at the center of my sons’ lives for over a year.”
Sarah Klein, a lawyer representing victims, said Harris’ sentence “reflects the seriousness of his crimes and the lifetime of pain his victims will suffer.”
“Charlie and Sam have shown immense courage in sharing their painful experiences with prosecutors and the public,” Klein added. “Their sacrifice will protect children they have never met.”
Harris faces a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison. Prosecutorswhile Harris’ lawyers wanted a six-year sentence, according to AP.
Zoe Christen Jones contributed reporting.