#ChildMolester | Jerry Harris arrested, charged with producing child pornography

The star of Netflix docuseries “Cheer” was arrested Thursday on federal child pornography charges — days after he was sued by twin brothers accusing him of sexual misconduct, authorities said.

Jeremiah “Jerry” Harris, 21, is charged with one count of producing child pornography but allegedly admitted to receiving X-rated photos from “at least between 10-15 other individuals he knew were minors,” according to a complaint filed by the US Attorney’s Office in Chicago.

The arrest marks a stunning fall from grace for Harris, who gained national recognition for his role on “Cheer,” which follows the cheer squad from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.

On Monday, he was slapped with a $1 million lawsuit from twin brothers who claim he “groomed” them for sex.

The suit, filed in Texas court, accuses Harris of demanding sexually explicit photos from the boys and molesting them after befriending them at a national competition.

The siblings, who are competitive cheerleaders from Texas, said the alleged abuse began when they were around 13 and 14 and Harris was 19, and that it lasted for more than a year.

The suit accuses Harris of exploiting his “popularity and position of fame with young male cheer athletes” as his Emmy-winning series blew up.

The boys allegedly looked up to Harris — who is nationally known on the cheer scene — as their “mentor,” so they complied with his demands, the suit said.

Harris allegedly demanded oral sex from one of the boys in a bathroom at the American Cheerleaders Association’s national competition in February 2019, the suit said. The boy refused to comply.

His alleged behavior was uncovered in February by the boys’ mother, who found the seedy messages on her sons’ cellphones and social media — including some of the sexually explicit photos and videos, the suit said.

The criminal charges against Harris, however, only pertain to the alleged abuse of one of the boys — the one he solicited oral sex from in the bathroom, court papers said.

Harris also allegedly sent the boy a video of himself masturbating and received multiple photos of the minor “naked and stretching, doing cheer poses” and showing off his privates, the filing said.

During an interview with investigators on Monday, Harris admitted to exchanging the illicit photos with the boy — as well as “at least between 10 to 15 other individuals he knew were minors,” the complaint alleged.

He also allegedly admitted to having anal and oral sex with a 15-year-old at a cheer event in 2019.

Federal agents executed a search warrant at Harris’ home in Naperville, Illinois, on Monday, the same day the FBI confirmed it was investigating allegations of sexual misconduct.

Jerry Harris
Jerry HarrisJim Spellman/Getty Images

Reps for Harris denied the allegations made by the twins.

Harris faces a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and maximum of 30 years, if convicted.

The feds said their investigation is ongoing — leaving open the possibility that more charges will be brought.

Attorneys for the twins hailed the arrest — and encouraged authorities not to stop the investigation there.

“We are grateful that the U.S. Attorney and the FBI have taken swift action to protect children by investigating, arresting, and charging Jerry Harris,” said lawyers Morgan Stewart and Sarah Klein in a joint statement. “This was made possible because our clients’ mother had the courage to report Harris to the FBI as well as the Fort Worth Police Department and provided evidentiary proof of the manipulation, sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation that her sons had suffered.

“We urge the authorities to undertake a thorough investigation of the United States All Star Federation, Varsity Spirit, and Cheer Athletics to determine which of their executives, employees, and representatives could have stopped Harris’ abuse and failed to do so.”

USASF is the governing body of competitive cheerleading and dance in America.

In addition to selling apparel, Varsity Spirit runs cheerleading camps and competitions.

Cheer Athletics is one of the largest and most decorated competitive cheerleading organizations in the US.

The USASF and Varsity Spirit did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Jody Melton, a co-owner of Cheer Athletics, stressed that Harris’ only association with the program, as an athlete participant, came to an end in March, while the alleged victims have never been members.

“We were first made aware of the allegations against Mr. Harris in mid-May 2020,” Melton said. “We immediately reported the allegations to the proper authorities, including multiple police departments, Texas Child Protective Services, and the USASF.

“We remain ready to cooperate with all authorities and even the plaintiffs in this matter.”

A Netflix spokesperson said in a statement: “Like everyone we are shocked by this news. Any abuse of minors is a terrible crime and we respect the legal process.”

Additional reporting by Chelsea Hirsch and Aaron Feis


Source link