A Chicago judge sentenced Jerry Harris, the Navarro College cheerleader who became a breakout star of the Netflix documentary series “Cheer,” to 12 years in prison on Wednesday on pleading guilty to two of seven federal charges related to sexual offenses involving minors. involved in February. †
Harris, 22, had reached a plea deal in February in which prosecutors agreed that after being convicted on the two counts — the charges that he persuaded a 17-year-old to send him sexually explicit photos for money and traveled to Florida “for with the aim of engaging in illicit sexual conduct” with a 15-year-old – they would ask that the remaining charges be dropped. He had initially pleaded not guilty to all seven charges in December 2020.
Mr Harris’ plea agreement noted that the sentencing guidelines may recommend “50 years in prison” for the offenses, although Judge Manish S. Shah had noted he could rule otherwise. Judge Shah also ordered Mr Harris to serve eight years of court-supervised release following his jail term.
An attorney for Mr Harris, Todd Pugh, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
In a memo filed before the hearing, prosecutors had asked Judge Shah to sentence Mr. Harris to 15 years in prison, arguing that Mr. Harris was abusing “his competitive cheerleader status, his social media persona and ultimately his fame and money, to convince and entice his young victims into explicit sexual behavior for him or with him.”
Mr Harris’ attorneys had demanded a six-year prison term followed by eight years of supervised release, arguing that Mr Harris himself had been sexually abused as a child in the world of competitive cheerleading and therefore a “skewed version.” of what he understood as appropriate relationships.”
The conviction closes a case that began nearly two years ago in September 2020, when Mr. Harris was arrested and charged with child pornography production months after the release of “Cheer,” which follows a national champion’s cheerleading team from a small town Texan community school.
Around the same time, he was sued by twin brothers who said he sent them sexually explicit messages, asked for nude photos, and solicited sex from them. (Mr. Harris befriended the boys when they were 13 and he was 19, USA Today reported.)
In a voluntary interview with authorities in 2020, Mr. Harris admitted that he exchanged sexually explicit photos on Snapchat with at least 10 to 15 people he knew were underage and had sex with a 15-year-old during a cheerleading contest in 2019. , according to an indictment.
After federal agents interviewed other minors who said they were in a relationship with Mr. Harris, they filed additional charges against him. The charges Mr Harris has found not guilty of as part of the agreement include four charges of child sexual exploitation and one charges of solicitation. Five underage boys are involved in the seven charges.
mr. Harris has been incarcerated at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago since his arrest.