Ex-Cheer star Jerry Harris sentenced to 12 years in prison for child sexual abuse images charges

22-year-old breakout star on Netflix’s cheerleading show had pleaded guilty to crimes relating to child abuse images and soliciting sex from minors

Jerry Harris was sentenced to 12 years on Wednesday after pleading guilty in a federal child sexual abuse images case. Photograph: Jim Spellman/Getty ImagesPress AssociationThu 7 Jul 2022 02.41 BST

Jerry Harris, the star of hit Netflix series Cheer, has been sentenced to 12 years behind bars in the US for crimes relating to child sexual abuse images and soliciting sex from minors.

Prosecutors had urged the lengthy sentence, saying that Harris’s status as a celebrity had enabled him to “persuade and entice” his young victims to engage in sexual conduct.

Judge Manish S Shah handed the social media star and cheerleading champion the sentence at a federal court in Chicago on Wednesday. Harris, who has remained in custody at a federal detention facility since his arrest in September 2020, appeared in court for the sentence.

From the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Harris was the breakout star of Cheer, a series following a cheerleading team from Navarro college in Corsicana, Texas, as it sought a national title. The second series of Cheer addressed the investigation into Harris, and dedicated an entire episode to the incidents, titled Jerry.

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

The 22-year-old previously pleaded guilty to one count of travelling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and one count of receiving child sexual abuse images. These stemmed from incidents where Harris persuaded a 17-year-old to send him sexually explicit photographs for money, and a trip he took to Florida for the purpose of “engaging in illicit sexual conduct” with a 15-year-old.

He admitted to a further five charges, but US prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining five counts under a plea agreement.

A US child sexual abuse images charge carries a sentence ranging from five to 20 years and the second charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years.

Harris was arrested in September 2020 on a charge of production of child sexual abuse images. Federal prosecutors alleged at the time that he solicited videos and images from two 14-year-old brothers, and had admitted to repeatedly asking a minor teen for child sexual abuse videos and images between December 2018 and March 2020.

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

According to the indictment, Harris had 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 to asking a teenage boy to send him photographs, and to requesting child sexual abuse images on Snapchat from at least 10 to 15 others he knew to be minors, according to the indictment.

  • In the US, call or text the Childhelp abuse hotline on 800-422-4453. In the UK, the NSPCC offers support to children on 0800 1111, and adults concerned about a child on 0808 800 5000. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) offers support for adult survivors on 0808 801 0331. In Australia, children, young adults, parents and teachers can contact the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or Bravehearts on 1800 272 831, and adult survivors can contact Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380. Other sources of help can be found at Child Helplines International

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