Federal authorities arrested Jerry Harris, one of the stars of Netflix’s documentary series Cheer, and charged him Thursday with child pornography for allegedly enticing minors to send him sexually explicit photos and videos, a day after two 14-year-old twin brothers filed a lawsuit against Harris alleging sexual abuse.
FBI agents raided Harris’ Naperville, Illinois, home on Monday, according to the Chicago Tribune, before his arrest on Thursday.
Harris was charged with one count of producing child pornography, which carries a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison with a maximum of 30.
According to the complaint, Harris used Snapchat in 2018 to contact an underage boy, who told Harris that he was 13 at the time, and Harris allegedly requested sexually explicit photos and videos from the boy multiple times during that conversation.
The parent of the 13-year-old boy discovered some of the images and asked the boy about them, with the boy allegedly replying that Harris asked him for oral sex at a cheerleading competition in one of two in-person encounters sought by Harris.
On Wednesday, 14-year-old twin brothers sued Harris in a Texas district court for allegedly engaging in “sexual harassment, exploitation abuse and molestation” against them, and that they suffer ongoing trauma which leaves them unable to “meaningfully interact with others.”
Harris has not commented on the federal pornography charge, and a spokesperson previously denied the allegations of the 14-year-old brothers.
10 to 15. That’s how many minors Harris allegedly sought more explicit photos and videos from, according to the charges, which contain multiple screenshots of Harris’ alleged Snapchat interactions with redactions covering the children’s faces.
“Based on the above information, there is probable cause to believe that Jerry Harris knowingly employed, used, persuaded, induced, enticed and coerced a minor, namely Minor 1, to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct,” the indictment concludes.
Harris rose to fame for his outsize and eccentric personality in Cheer, a Netflix documentary series that follows the Navarro College cheerleading squad in Corsicana, Texas. In February, The Ellen DeGeneres Show—which itself has since been racked with accusations of bullying and sexual harassment on-set—announced that Harris would be their Oscars correspondent for 2020. USA Today first reported on Monday that Harris was under investigation for allegedly seeking out sexual encounters with minors. According to the Chicago Tribune, the criminal charges filed against Harris could be related to the lawsuit filed by the 14-year-old brothers in Texas. Harris will appear before a U.S. judge in Chicago later on Thursday. 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.”
Jerry Harris, star of Netflix show ‘Cheer,’ charged with producing child pornography after raid on Naperville home (Chicago Tribune)
Jerry Harris of ‘Cheer’ Accused of Sex Abuse in Teenagers’ Lawsuit (New York Times)
Jerry Harris from ‘Cheer’ under FBI investigation for allegedly soliciting sex from minors (USA Today)