Jerry Harris, one of the stars of the hit Netflix reality series Cheer, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges relating to child sexual abuse images.
In 2020, Harris was indicted on 7 counts of receiving and attempting to receive child pornography and of persuading minors to engage in sexual contact between August 2017 and August 2020.
JUST IN: Jerry Harris, former star of Netflix's 'Cheer,' sentenced to 12 years in child sex abuse images case https://t.co/T0b3f9zOv7
— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 6, 2022
NBC News reports Harris, 22, initially pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. But in February, he agreed to a plea deal on two counts: one of receiving child pornography, and one of traveling across state lines to engage in a sexual act with a minor.
Two of the victims, twin brothers, told investigators Harris attempted to solicit oral sex with one of the brothers in a bathroom at a cheerleading event. According to the complaint, Harris contacted the boy on Instagram in 2018 when Harris was 19 and the boy was 13.
They described him as being “touchy” and doing “odd things” to both brothers. They added that Harris would become “pushy” asking for naked photos via text messaging.
Another victim, who was 17 at the time, described Harris as “relentless” in soliciting photos from him via Snapchat. After repeatedly telling Harris ‘no,’ Harris offered to pay the teen for the pics.
Prosecutors had asked for 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.
But Harris’s attorneys pushed for a more lenient 6-year prison sentence. They argued that their client experienced sexual assault as a child and therefore had a “skewed version of what he understood to be appropriate relationships.”
Harris apologized to his victims in court Wednesday saying he was “wrong and selfish.”
“I regret my decisions and I am deeply sorry,” he said in a statement 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.”
Following his prison sentence, Harris will serve an additional 8 years of court-supervised release.
Harris rocketed to reality TV fame as a member of the cheerleading team at Navarro College in Texas in Season 1 of Cheer. Following that first season, several victims came forward, prompting Netflix to include the allegations against Harris in Season 2.
Many cheerleaders and the Navarro head cheer coach publicly supported Harris after he pleaded guilty in February.
Multiple cheerleaders and the head coach of Navarro support Jerry Harris after he plead guilty to child sex offenses and @netflix still chose to make CHEER season 2 and have them go on tour… https://t.co/ivwUTV7a9X
— sam hillebrand herion (@JanoSammy) July 6, 2022