Jerry Harris, the Naperville star of the Netflix series “Cheer,” was arrested Thursday on a federal charge accusing him of soliciting explicit images and videos from an underage teen through social media.
Harris, 21, was charged with one count of producing child pornography. His arrest comes after a lawsuit filed Monday in Texas against Harris and cheerleading organizations.
Harris repeatedly enticed the teen to send him sexually explicit videos and photographs, according to the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
The teen, a competitive cheerleader identified only as “Minor 1,” informed Harris during their initial online encounter that he was 13 years old, the complaint states.
After the boy’s mother discovered the images and videos on his cellphone and confronted him, he told her that Harris solicited oral sex from him in a bathroom at a cheerleading camp both attended in February 2019, according to the 28-page complaint. The teen refused.
He also reported a second attempt by Harris to meet him for an in-person sexual encounter when he was at a cheer competition that Harris also attended, the complaint states.
In an interview with law enforcement agents in his home Monday, Harris admitted to asking the teen to send him explicit photographs and videos via Snapchat, according to the complaint. Harris also admitted to repeatedly requesting lewd images from the teen beginning in December 2018 and continuing through March, according to the complaint.
Federal authorities allege Harris admitted to soliciting and receiving child pornography on Snapchat from at least “10 to 15 other individuals” he knew were minors.
Harris also admitted to sending Minor 1 explicit photographs of himself over Snapchat, the complaint states.
The teen’s mother provided authorities with multiple screenshots of messages between Harris and her son.
One screenshot included in the complaint showed an exchange between Harrison and Minor 1 from this year.
“I’m sorry for what I’ve done in the past,” Harris allegedly wrote. “I don’t think it’s a good idea we be friends on Snap.”
Harris was an instant fan favorite in the hit documentary series following the cheer squad from Navarro, a community college in Corsicana, Texas, in their pursuit for a national championship.
“Mat talk” entered the lexicon after the show featured his vocal pep talk encouraging his Navarro teammates from the sidelines.
If convicted of producing child pornography, Harris could face up to 30 years in prison.
Harris will remain in jail until at least Monday after a judge ordered him to return for a detention hearing on Monday morning, The Associated Press reported.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI Chicago Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force. Crystal Lake police and an FBI office in Waco, Texas, also provided assistance.
USA Today first reported Monday that the FBI criminal investigation was based on allegations brought by 14-year-old twin brothers in a lawsuit and that FBI agents conducted a raid at Harris’ Naperville home.