The former breakout star of Netflix docuseries “Cheer” was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for soliciting sex from minor boys as young as 13 at cheerleading events across the country.
Jerry Harris, 22, pleaded guilty to one count of traveling over state lines with the intent to engage in illicit sexual activity with minors and another count of coercing minors to send pornographic images and videos of themselves from another state.
Harris was arrested in September 2020 on child pornography charges, after coercing two 14-year-old brothers to send him obscene photos and videos. He was indicted on additional charges in December 2020 for illegal misconduct with minors during cheerleading competitions in Illinois, Florida, and Texas.
The “Cheer” star told the FBI that he had solicited pornographic images from 10-15 boys that he knew were minors through the social media app Snapchat. His defense asked the judge for a six-year sentence, citing that Harris was a victim of sexual assault as minor.
“The trauma he experienced as a child normalized his skewed version of what he understood to be appropriate relationships,” his lawyers wrote. “No one was there to stand up for him when he was sexually assaulted as a minor. He is grateful that is not the case for his victims in this case, to whom he is profoundly remorseful.”
Prosecutors countered that a “difficult” childhood is not “a blank check to commit sex offenses against minors,” and petitioned the court for a 15 year prison term.
Prior to sentencing, the disgraced reality star addressed his victims in an Illinois court. “I am deeply sorry for all the trauma my abuse has caused you. I pray deep down that your suffering comes to an end,” he said. “I’m not an evil person. I’m still learning who I am and what my purpose is.”
In February, Harris pleaded guilty to reduced charges that landed him a 12-year stint in prison, which will be followed by eight years of court-supervised release.