Jerry Harris, the disgraced former star of the Netflix docu-series Cheer, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for sex crimes against minors.
NBC News reports the 22-year-old received the sentencing Wednesday, nearly five months after pleading guilty to one count of receiving child pornography and one count of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Federal investigators say Harris confessed to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy during a 2019 cheerleading event, and soliciting nude photos from a 17-year-old boy via Snapchat. He also admitted to requesting nude photos from minors, trying to solicit oral sex at cheer events, and receiving child pornography from at least 10 other victims. He was previously facing up to 50 years in prison.
The disgraced reality star was arrested on sex abuse charges in September 2020 and has remained behind bars ever since. He originally pleaded not guilty in the child pornography case, but decided to change his plea because he wanted “to take responsibility for his actions and publicly convey his remorse for the harm he has caused ...” Harris’ attorneys argued for a six-year prison sentence, claiming their client’s predatory behavior was a result of the abuse he endured as a child.
“Jerry is a 22-year-old young man whose story can only be understood through the lens of the extreme poverty, sexual abuse, and neglect of his childhood,” his attorneys said in a statement earlier this year. “The criminal conduct in this case also took place in the context of a competitive Cheer Community where inappropriately sexualizing and sexually abusing children was far too common and too often overlooked. Jerry was himself exploited, manipulated, and sexually abused as a child within the Cheer Community in a way that perversely made him believe that this sexual conduct was somehow normal when it was not [...] As we now know, Jerry became an offender himself as an older teenager.”
Season 2 of Netflix’s Cheer addressed Harris’ sex abuse case. Two of his accusers, twin brothers Charlie and Sam, shared their stories on episode two of the second season, claiming Harris began communicating with them when they were 13 and he was 19.
“I would not be putting myself out there and doing all this stuff and literally losing my friends about this for no reason,” Charlie said. “Jerry is just an example of how you can see someone as one way, but they’re truly a different person.” https://t.co/gwaGncuazX pic.twitter.com/RMMm8MQGpx— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) September 15, 2020