Federal judge orders ‘Cheer’ star Jerry Harris held behind bars while awaiting trial
The judge earlier heard from the mother of two boys allegedly targeted for sexual advances by Harris. She asked the judge to “send a message that the allegations made by my sons … are being taken very seriously.”
A federal judge ordered a star of the Netflix docuseries “Cheer” held behind bars Friday, finding the evidence against 21-year-old Jerry Harris “overwhelmingly supports detention” and suggests he would be a danger to the community if released.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Heather McShain spent 30 minutes laying out her ruling, rejecting several arguments made by Harris’ defense team. She pointed to Harris’ apparent inability to control his behavior as well as the exploitation of his position in the cheer 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 has been held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center since his arrest last month by the FBI. Though he is charged with one count of production of child pornography, the feds have hinted that more charges could be coming. They said Harris sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy in a public bathroom, tried to persuade another minor to engage in oral sex at cheerleading events, solicited a third for sex and admitted having five to 10 victims in all.
U.S. District Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer earlier this week gave the feds until Dec. 18 to seek an indictment against Harris from a grand jury. Harris faces a minimum of 15 years in prison if convicted of the charge filed against him last month.
Earlier this week, Harris attended a hearing before McShain in person. But he listened to the judge’s ruling Friday by phone. So did some of his supporters, apparently. When technical difficulties briefly interrupted McShain, someone made comments on the phone line that seemed to be directed toward Harris.
The words, “love you kiddo” and “stay strong … and know that you are loved” could be heard in the courtroom.
Harris’ lawyers attended the hearing in person and declined to comment when it was over. Prosecutors listened by phone.
Defense attorney Todd Pugh asked earlier this week that Harris be allowed out of jail on house arrest, monitored by four third-party custodians but given no internet access. McShain noted in that earlier hearing “it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could get his hands on a phone.” On Friday, she said it would be “virtually impossible” for someone to make sure Harris doesn’t somehow access the internet.
Though McShain was not persuaded by Pugh’s proposal, she commended the four women who offered to serve as Harris’ third-party custodians. One told the judge earlier this week that “we will not stand by his side” if he failed to follow the rules of pretrial release.
But McShain also heard in the earlier hearing from the mother of two boys allegedly targeted for sexual advances by Harris. She asked McShain to keep Harris behind bars to “send a message that the allegations made by my sons … are being taken very seriously.”
“Please just protect my children and the other young people who have been affected by this man,” she said.