Cheer star Jerry Harris was arrested by the FBI on a child pornography charge, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced on Thursday. The cheerleader, a fan favorite from the Netflix docuseries, is accused of enticing an underage boy to produce sexually explicit videos and photos of himself.
Harris, 21, has been charged with one count of producing child pornography. If convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years.
Harris made an initial court appearance on Thursday which lasted about 10 minutes. According to the Chicago Tribune, he will be held in federal custody until Monday’s detention hearing. Harris was led away in handcuffs after the hearing.
The hearing is over. Harris will be in federal custody at least until Monday, when the government will argue he should be denied bond as a danger to the community.— Jason Meisner (@jmetr22b) September 17, 2020
Prosecutors want Harris held without bond pending trial as they believe he’s a danger to the community. Harris’s lawyer said he intends to argue for his client’s release. Harris has asthma and uses an inhaler, according to his attorney, and is at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 behind bars.
According to court records viewed by USA Today, Harris admitted to federal agents that he solicited and received explicit messages on Snapchat from at least 10 to 15 individuals he knew were minors, had sex with a 15-year-old at a cheerleading competition in 2019 and offered a 17-year-old money in exchange for nude photos.
A criminal investigation was launched after 14-year-old twin boys made sexual misconduct allegations against Harris. They claim they were 13 when they were first approached and sexually exploited by Harris. Their mother went to authorities when she supposedly found sexually explicit messages. They are suing Harris for $1 million.
After Harris’s home in Naperville, Ill. was searched by the FBI on Monday, the reality star denied wrongdoing through a representative: “We categorically dispute the claims made against Jerry Harris, which are alleged to have occurred when he was a teenager. We are confident that when the investigation is completed the true facts will be revealed.”
Yahoo Entertainment reached out to Harris’s representative for comment on Thursday, but did not immediately receive a response.
With over 1.2 million followers on Instagram, Harris was arguably the biggest breakout star of Cheer. Season 1, which premiered in January, followed the Navarro College cheering squad’s quest to win another national title. Harris became a fan favorite due to his “mat talk” and overall positive attitude. It landed him a gig with The Ellen DeGeneres Show as he was the red carpet correspondent at the 2020 Oscars.