A federal judge ruled on Friday that “Cheer” star Jerry Harris must stay behind bars ahead of his trial on a child pornography charge, declaring that his release would pose “significant danger to the community.”
Magistrate Judge Heather McShain agreed with prosecutors to keep the 21-year-old docuseries star locked up, BuzzFeed News reported.
“By all accounts he was a rising star with a positive future ahead,” McShain said during a phone hearing. “But those positive aspects must be weighed against the aspect he hid from the community.”
“There is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant would be a danger to the community if released,” she added.
McShain ruled that Harris could not be released because he had successfully hidden his alleged crimes for more than a year, that he had a strong familiarity with the internet, and had previously shown behavior indicating he could not control his impulses.
BuzzFeed News reported that Harris had admitted to destroying his cellphone when he first learned that he was being investigated. However, he bought another and continued to contact young boys.
Prosecutors described him as a “brazen sexual predator” who had prayed on as many as 10 boys through social media.
Harris was arrested in September on one count of producing child pornography after allegedly repeatedly “enticing an underage boy to produce sexually explicit photos and video of himself,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.
The criminal complaint alleges that Harris contacted the 13-year-old on social media before repeatedly requesting sexually explicit content. During their first virtual encounter in December 2018, the minor informed Harris of his age. They stopped communicating in March of this year.
Officials said the minor also described one in-person encounter and another attempted meet-up at cheerleading events in which Harris tried to receive oral sex in the bathroom.
Harris’s lawyers, however, argued that he has been victim of the predatory world of competitive cheerleading. They argued in a motion that he had been “fully immersed into the ‘cheer’ world where sexual predators were largely unchecked with children of all ages.”
Harris had risen to fame earlier this year with the release of Netflix’s “Cheer,” which followed a cheer team from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.
He is still facing a single count of producing child pornography. However, BuzzFeed reported that more charges may potentially be filed because authorities said they have interviewed more possible victims, including the boy Harris allegedly raped in a bathroom stall.
If convicted of the one count currently on the docket, Harris could face a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison.