Jeremiah “Jerry” Harris, one of the students featured in the Netflix docuseries “Cheer,” has been arrested on a federal charge for allegedly producing child pornography.
According to federal prosecutors, the celebrity cheerleader, who is now 21, was formally charged in Chicago on Thursday. Harris was arrested today “for allegedly enticing an underage boy (13 yo) to produce sexually explicit videos and photos of himself.”
What does the criminal complaint allege?
The criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, alleges that Harris, “contacted the underage boy on a social media application (Snapchat.) And repeatedly enticed him to produce sexually explicit videos and photographs of himself and send them to him.” The minor victim is also said to have informed Harris during their initial online encounter that he was 13 years old at the time.”
According to the complaint, the boy’s parent found sexually explicit pictures on her son’s cell phone. When confronted, the boy admitted that Harris had asked for the pictures and videos through text messages. The boy also admitted that there had been one in-person encounter with Harris. According to the documents, Harris reportedly solicited oral sex from the boy in a bathroom during a cheer leading event, back in February 2019. The boy at the time, refused and left the bathroom to rejoin his team. The complaint alleges that Harris not only sought a second encounter with him at another cheer leading competition, but also sought images from the boy’s twin brother, who refused.
The complaint also accuses Harris of admitting to FBI agents of soliciting and receiving child pornography on Snapchat from “at least between 10 to 15 other individuals he knew were minors.” Earlier in the week, The FBI conducted a raid on Harris’ home. The “cheer” star is set to appear before a judge at 2:00 p.m. local time.
A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office stated that production of child pornography is punishable by a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
Filing a Lawsuit
News of Jerry’s federal arrest comes right after the underage Texas twins’ family filed a lawsuit against the cheerleader. According to the lawsuit Harris befriended the twin boys in 2018 when they were merely 13 years old and requested them to send him explicit photos. The lawsuit, in which the boys seek $1 million in damages, also stated that Harris solicited one of the brothers for oral sex.
The lawsuit alleges that Harris leveraged his prominence in the cheer leading community to groom the two for abuse. “Plaintiffs were ‘star struck,’ as Harris was already a known All-Star Cheer personality, icon and coach within the state and nationally.”
“We are confident that when the investigation is completed the true facts will be revealed”
A spokesperson for Jerry Harris released a statement on Monday, saying, “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.”
A statement from Sarah Klein, the plaintiffs’ civil attorney, reads, “We are grateful that the U.S. Attorney and the FBI have taken swift action to protect children by investigating, arresting, and charging Jerry Harris. This was made possible because our clients’ mother had the courage to report Harris to the FBI as well as the Fort Worth Police Department. And also provided evidentiary proof of the manipulation, sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation that her sons had suffered.”
Harris rose to fame on Cheer, a popular Netflix docu series that follows Texas’ Navarro College competitive cheer leading team. Harris, who is a star on the team, was known for his positive demeanor and the way he inspired teammates. “Cheer” recently won two Emmy Awards and is nominated for outstanding unstructured reality program. Which will be announced during the last night of the virtual Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Saturday. Netflix has yet to make a statement.