Former ‘Cheer’ star Jerry Harris to plead guilty

A judge ordered Harris, charged in a federal sex crimes case, held behind bars in October 2020, finding that the evidence against him “overwhelmingly supports detention” and suggested he would be a danger to the community if released.

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Jerry Harris

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Jerry Harris, a former star of the Netflix docuseries “Cheer,” is expected to plead guilty in his federal sex crimes case Thursday, according to U.S. District Court records in Chicago.

A defense attorney for Harris declined to comment Wednesday.

The news comes nearly a year-and-a-half after Harris was arrested on child pornography charges. A 28-page criminal complaint traced the case against Harris to a discovery in February 2020 by the mother of 14-year-old twin boys who are competitive cheerleaders.

One minor interviewed by law enforcement called Harris “relentless” in his pursuit of naked photographs. Federal prosecutors said Harris admitted having five to 10 victims in all. 

U.S. Magistrate Judge Heather McShain ordered Harris, 22, held behind bars in October 2020, after he was initially charged with one count of production of child pornography. The judge found that the evidence against him “overwhelmingly supports detention” and suggested he would be a danger to the community if released.

The judge pointed to Harris’ apparent inability to control his behavior as well as the exploitation of his position in the cheerleading community. She also rejected any “blurred line” between Harris’ age and that of his alleged victims. 

“[Harris] was not a child,” McShain said. “He was an adult.”

Harris is being held in the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center, records show. He was later charged with child pornography and other crimes involving four victims in a seven-count indictment filed in December 2020 that alleged misconduct in Illinois, Florida and Texas. 

The mother whose discovery apparently started the case said she found a message purportedly from Harris on one boy’s cell phone. When she confronted him, he allegedly told her he’d been communicating with Harris on Snapchat for more than a year. He said Harris constantly asked for photos and videos from the boy, though the boy didn’t want to describe them to his mother, according to the feds. 

The boy told authorities he’d first been contacted by Harris on Instagram in 2018. In that initial communication, Harris allegedly asked the boy’s age, and he told Harris he was 13.

The boy’s mother eventually learned of a “my eyes only” folder on Snapchat and demanded the boy show it to her, according to the criminal complaint. That’s when she discovered a minute-long video of a male sitting on a bed masturbating, the feds say. Though the male’s face was not visible, the boy allegedly told her it was Harris. 

The mother said she found 12 to 15 photos and videos of her son naked and stretching and doing cheer poses. When she asked her son why they were saved on his Snapchat account, the boy said Harris constantly asked for images of the boy, but the boy only wanted to do the poses once, so he saved them to resend to Harris in the future, according to the complaint.

The boy told authorities that on one occasion, after he posted a photo of himself doing a cheerleading maneuver called “the needle,” Harris contacted him on Snapchat and said, “Do it naked and take a video and show me.”

He also alleged that Harris twice tried to solicit him for sexual encounters during cheerleading events, once in February 2019 and once in May 2019. In texts provided by the boy’s mother, Harris allegedly wrote in May 2019, “I found a place for us to do stuff it’s actually pretty good haha.” The boy replied “i cant sorry,” according to the complaint.

On Feb. 7, 2020, Harris allegedly sent a text to the boy saying, “I don’t think we should be friends on snap” and “I’m sorry for what I’ve done in the past.”

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