CHICAGO—A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced Jerry Harris, the former star of the Netflix documentary series “Cheer,” to 12 years in prison for forcing teenagers to send him obscene photos and videos of themselves and soliciting sex from minors at drag competitions. cheerleaders.
US District Judge Manish Shah also ordered that the sentence be followed by eight years of court-supervised release.
Shah told Harris to view the sentence as an “expression of the seriousness of your crimes, tempered with some hope that all is not lost for you or your victims, and that some healing may occur in the future.”
Harris, 22, of suburban Naperville, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of receiving child pornography and traveling with the intent to engage in unlawful sexual conduct.
A prosecutor had called for a 15-year sentence followed by 10 years of supervised release, while Harris’ attorneys were seeking a six-year sentence and eight years of supervised release.
Before learning of his sentence, Harris apologized to his victims, saying, “I am deeply sorry for all the trauma my abuse has caused you. I pray deep down that your suffering comes to an end.”
“I’m not an evil person,” Harris said. “I am still learning who I am and what my purpose is.”
Harris has been in custody at a federal detention center.
Sarah Klein, an attorney for two of the victims, released a statement saying Harris’s guilt was “firmly established.”
“The sentence he received reflects the seriousness of his crimes and the lifelong pain his victims will endure,” Klein said.
Harris was arrested in September 2020 on a charge of producing child pornography. Prosecutors alleged at the time that he requested videos and images of two 14-year-old brothers.
According to a complaint, federal prosecutors said Harris admitted to repeatedly asking an underage teen for pornographic videos and images between December 2018 and March 2020.
Then, in December of that year, he was indicted on more misconduct charges in Illinois, Florida and Texas. According to the indictment, Harris allegedly solicited sex from minors at cheerleading competitions and convinced the teens to send him obscene photos and videos of themselves.
Harris admitted to FBI agents that he asked a teen to send him lewd photos of himself and that he solicited child pornography on Snapchat from at least 10 to 15 people he knew to be minors, according to the indictment.
“Cheer” was a huge hit when it was released in January 2020, and Harris became hugely popular for her upbeat attitude and uplifting “mat talk.” Harris even interviewed celebrities on the Academy Awards red carpet for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
The docuseries follows the competitive cheerleading squad at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.
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