Former 'Cheer' star sentenced in federal sex crimes case

Thursday, July 7, 2022
Former 'Cheer' star sentenced in federal sex crimes case
Jerry Harris BuzzFeed's "AM To DM", Jan. 30, 2020.

Jerry Harris, a former star of the popular Netflix docuseries "Cheer," was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to sex crime charges earlier this year.

Harris, 22, of Naperville, Illinois, pleaded guilty in February to receiving child pornography and engaging in interstate travel for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 15.

Harris faced several other sexual misconduct charges. As part of his plea agreement, he admitted to the rest of the charges as stipulated offenses.

He had faced five to 50 years in prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Manish S. Shah also sentenced Harris to eight years of supervised release following his time in federal prison.

Harris' attorneys had sought a six-year sentence, followed by eight years of supervised release, arguing in court documents filed last month that he is "both victimizer and victim" after being sexually assaulted as a minor. "The trauma he experienced as a child normalized his skewed version of what he understood to be appropriate relationships," his attorneys said.

Prosecutors sought a 15-year prison sentence, followed by 10 years of supervised release, arguing that he "preyed on the insecurity and youth of boys in the cheerleading community to abuse them."

"[While] Harris's childhood was very difficult, it was not a blank check to commit sex offenses against minors," prosecutors said in court documents filed last month.

Allegations against Harris, who was a breakout star of the first season of "Cheer," first came to light in September 2020, when he was arrested and charged with one count of producing child pornography.

A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago alleged that Harris enticed an underage boy to produce and send sexually explicit videos and photographs of himself.

The complaint also stated that the boy, who said that he was first contacted by Harris in December 2018, informed Harris during a conversation on social media that he was 13 years old at the time. Harris was accused in the complaint of also making similar requests to the boy's twin brother.

As part of the sentencing Wednesday, Judge Shah ordered Harris to pay a combined $45,000 under two laws that provide restitution for victims of child pornography and sexual abuse, court records show.

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