Former “Cheer” star Jerry Harris was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to child sex crimes. CBS Chicago reports. He will also spend eight years on court-supervised release.
Harris pleaded guilty in February on child pornography charges after convincing a minor to send him sexually explicit photos for money. He also pleaded guilty to travel to illicit sex with a minor stemming from a trip to Florida to have “illegal sex” with a 15-year-old, reports The Associated Press.
A plea agreement prompted prosecutors to drop five additional federal charges against Harris.
At his sentencing hearing, Harris apologized to his victims and said his actions were “wrong and selfish,” according to a statement released by his attorney.
“I don’t deserve forgiveness, but I pray that one day you will find her in your hearts,” Harris added.
Since then, the 22-year-old has been in a federal detention center without ties arrested in September 2020.
Born Jeremiah Harris, he rose to fame when he and his teammates starred in the Emmy-winning docuseries Cheer, which follows the life of the Navarro Cheer team. Harris even attended the 2020 Academy Awards as a personality for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
However, after a lengthy FBI investigation, he was arrested in September 2020 and charged with one charge of manufacturing child pornography.
The federal complaint alleged that Harris contacted a minor in 2018 and requested “face” and “butt” pictures, even after the minor told him he was 13 years old. In the complaint, the minor said he sent Harris dozens of photos over a period of more than a year. The minor also told investigators that Harris cornered him in a bathroom at a cheerleading competition and tried to get him to perform oral sex.
The minor declined, and Harris reportedly made the same request at another competition 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 sent him a message 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 twin of the first minor, also accused Harris of soliciting nude photos.
In the complaint, investigators said Harris admitted to multiple allegations, including demanding nude photos, attempting to solicit oral sex at cheerleading events, and receiving child pornography from 10 to 15 other children he knew were minors.
In December 2020 was Harris charged in seven other cases alleging he solicited sex from minors at cheerleading competitions and worked to get boys to send him photos and videos.
In the final season of “Cheer,” the two minors named in the first federal complaint turned out to be twin cheerleaders, Charlie and Sam. Both twins described being hesitant to speak out against Harris because of his growing popularity, but Charlie said after seeing him speak to then-presidential candidate Joe Biden in a June 2020 interview, he “lost his composure” and knew that he had to do something.
“I want to show the world, put a face to people when they think of Jerry Harris, what he did,” Charlie said.
“It didn’t just happen a few times,” Kristen, Charlie and Sam’s mom, told CBS Chicago. “He was an incredibly tenacious predator that pushed himself into the center of my sons’ lives for over a year.”
Sarah Klein, an attorney representing the victims, said Harris’ verdict “reflects the seriousness of his crimes and the lifelong pain his victims will endure.”
“Charlie and Sam have shown tremendous courage in sharing their painful experiences with prosecutors and the public,” Klein added. “Their sacrifice will protect children they have never met.”
Harris faced a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison. prosecutors was seeking a 15-year prison sentencewhile Harris’ attorneys were seeking a six-year sentence, according to the AP.
Zoe Christen Jones contributed coverage.