Jerry Harris, the former breakout star of Netflix series “Cheer,” was sentenced to 12 years in prison Wednesday for two child sex crimes.
Harris, now 22, pleaded guilty in February to federal charges of receiving child pornography and traveling with the intention to engage in illegal sexual conduct. His guilty plea was part of a plea deal in which several other charges against Harris were dropped.
In interviews with investigators, Harris admitted to soliciting sex acts and explicit pictures from between 10 and 15 minors. Once he gets out of prison, Harris will be under supervised release for eight years.
Prosecutors had asked for a 15-year sentence, saying Harris used his status, celebrity and money “to persuade and entice his young victims to engage in sexually explicit conduct for him or with him.”
Harris’ defense team asked for a six-year sentence, claiming that Harris himself was sexually abused by a 19-year-old when he was just 13, scarring him with a warped perception of sexual relations in the cheerleading community.
The Daily News Flash
Catch up on the day’s top five stories every weekday afternoon.
Prosecutors responded by saying that “while Harris’s childhood was very difficult, it was not a blank check to commit sex offenses against minors.”
Harris was specifically sentenced for two incidents. In December 2019, he traveled from Dallas to a cheer competition in Orlando, where he sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy in a public bathroom.
The other charge involved a 17-year-old boy who Harris pressured and paid for explicit photos over Snapchat. Several other boys have described similar behavior by Harris.
Twin boys from Texas, who were 13 when Harris started grooming them, also mentioned bathroom assaults. After Harris pressured one of the boys for sex in a public bathroom, the teen was so scared of entering one again that he stopped eating at school. However, their cases were dropped in Harris’ plea deal.
“The sentence (Harris) received reflects the severity of his crimes and the lifetime of pain his victims will suffer,” said Sarah Klein, an attorney for the Texas family.
In the first season of “Cheer,” Harris became a breakout star for his encouraging coaching tactics in the often brutal world of competitive cheerleading. By the second season, he was a cautionary tale whose federal crimes against children were examined by the series.
With News Wire Services