The rise and fall of Jerry Harris: ‘Cheer’ star gets 12 YEARS prison over child porn scandal

Jerry Harris was indicted on 7 counts of receiving and attempting to receive images of child sexual abuse and persuading minors to engage in sex with him


                            The rise and fall of Jerry Harris: ‘Cheer’ star gets 12 YEARS prison over child porn scandal
Jerry Harris sentenced to 12 years in prison followed by eight years of supervised release following his term in prison on July 6 (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
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Jerry Harris, the former breakout star of the Netflix docuseries, 'Cheer', was sentenced on Wednesday, July 6 to 12 years in prison on federal charges involving child sexual abuse and pressuring young boys to send him nude photos and videos. Harris, 22, was indicted on seven counts of receiving and attempting to receive child pornography and of persuading minors to engage in sex with him from August 2017 to August 2020. Prosecutors said the acts involved victims in Texas, Florida, and Illinois.

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The former competitive cheerleader who rose to fame and had interviewed big names in the past including Brad Pitt and Billie Eilish and was even seen chatting with US President Joe Biden, then a Democratic candidate, now marked his disgraceful downfall. Harris is known as one of the highest-paid American television personalities in the world with a huge fan following on social media and a net worth of $4 million. His celebrity success was reaching heights and he appeared to be beloved by all, but now in less than a year, the rising star has lost it all and everything has now changed after sexual assault allegations. Now, the hit cheer has been handed 12 years in jail.

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On Wednesday, July 6, after a nearly seven-hour hearing, US District Judge Manish Shah sentenced Harris to 12 years in prison followed by eight years of supervised release following his term in prison. The judge told Harris the sentence was an "expression of the seriousness of your crimes, tempered with some hope that all is not lost for you or for your victims, and that in the future some healing can occur", USA Today reported. However, Prosecutors had sought a 15-year sentence for Harris, writing in a sentencing memorandum that he used "his status as a competitive cheerleader, his social media persona, and eventually his celebrity and money" to persuade underage boys into sending sexually explicit content.

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Attorneys for Harris asked for six years in prison, claiming that their client experienced sexual assault as a child and therefore had a "skewed version of what he understood to be appropriate relationships," court documents stated. Harris apologized to his victims, Wednesday in court. "I regret my decisions and I am deeply sorry," he said, according to a copy of his statement that was shared by his attorney, Todd Pugh. "All I can do going forward is to try to do better and be a better person. I do not deserve forgiveness, but I do pray that one day you might find it in your hearts."

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The FBI investigation into Harris began in September 2020, at a time when Harris' celebrity status was growing. He had picked up sponsorships with Starburst, Cheerios, and Walmart, USA TODAY reported. The investigation came after, Kristen, a Texas mother, and her twin sons Charlie and Sam reported allegations against Harris to authorities. In interviews with USA TODAY in 2020, they described a pattern of harassment by Harris that started when the boys were 13 and Harris was 19. The family said it continued for more than a year. The brothers shared their story on the second season of "Cheer," saying that they were initially fearful about speaking up because of Harris' celebrity status and how it would affect their status in the cheer community.

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Jerry Harris' victims Charlie and Sam spoke about their trauma after sexual assault (video screenshot/USA TODAY)

On Wednesday, July 6, the now-16-year-old twins gave statements in federal court detailing the lasting impact of Harris' abuse, including the loss of friendships and their struggles with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. “I had to quit cheering at my old gym because people there disagreed with me and my family because of deciding to speak out," one of the brothers said. "The only true community I had at that time I felt like I had was taken away from me for doing the right thing."

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Another victim, who was 17, told investigators that Harris was "relentless" in soliciting pictures from him on Snapchat, according to the complaint. The boy said he turned Harris down repeatedly until Harris offered to pay him.

The former cheerleader and television star initially pleaded not guilty to the charges but changed it in February to plead guilty to two of the counts in the indictment, receiving child pornography and persuading the minor in sexual contact.

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