Former Cheer star Jerry Harris sentenced to 12 years on sex abuse charges

·2 min read

Jerry Harris, who appeared on the Netflix series Cheer, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for crimes relating to child pornography and soliciting sex from minors.

The disgraced cheerleading champion has remained in custody at a federal detention facility since Harris was arrested in September 2020 on child pornography charges.

Prosecutors alleged at the time that he solicited videos and images from two 14-year-old brothers.

According to a complaint, federal prosecutors said that Harris admitted to repeatedly asking a minor teen for pornographic videos and images between December 2018 and March 2020.

In December 2020, Harris was indicted on more charges alleging misconduct in Illinois, Florida and Texas.

According to the indictment, he allegedly solicited sex from minors at cheerleading competitions and convinced teenage boys to send him obscene photographs and videos of themselves.

Harris later admitted to FBI agents that he asked a teenage boy to send him photographs of himself, and requested child pornography on Snapchat from at least 10 to 15 others he knew to be minors, according to the indictment.

On Wednesday (6 July) at a federal court in Chicago, Judge Manish S Shah sent Harris to 12 years in jail after prosecutors had urged the lengthy sentence.

They argued Harris’s celebrity status had enabled him to “persuade and entice” his young victims to engage in sexual acts.

Notable figures listed as authors of character letters to be used by the his defence included other stars of Cheer such as Navarro college head coach Monica Aldama, teammate Morgan Simianer and the parents of Harris’ fellow cheerleader, Gabi Butler.

Jerry Harris in 'Cheer' (Courtesy of Netflix)
Jerry Harris in 'Cheer' (Courtesy of Netflix)

Harris, 22, previously pleaded guilty to two of seven counts against him at a plea gearing in February this year. These included persuading a 17-year-old to send him sexually explicit photographs for money.

The other count stemmed from a trip he took to Florida for the purpose of “engaging in illicit sexual conduct” with a 15-year-old.

His pleas were entered during a plea hearing in a US federal court in Chicago in February this year. Prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining five counts under a plea agreement.

A child pornography charge carries a sentence ranging from five to 20 years in the US, while the second charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years.

A native of Chicago suburb Naperville, Harris was the breakout star of Netflix’s Cheer. The series followed a cheerleading team from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, as it sought a national title.

The second season of Cheer addresses the investigation into Harris in an episode titled “Jerry”.