Cheer star Jerry Harris pleads guilty to US child pornography charges

His pleas were entered during a hearing in a US federal court in Chicago on Thursday.

Cheer star Jerry Harris (John Locher/AP)

By Mike Bedigan, PA Los Angeles Correspondent

The star of hit Netflix series Cheer has pleaded guilty to federal charges of receiving child pornography and soliciting sex from minors.

Jerry Harris pleaded guilty to one count of travelling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and one count of receiving child pornography, a US attorney’s office spokesman said.

His pleas were entered during a plea hearing in a US federal court in Chicago on Thursday.

The 22 year-old pleaded guilty to two of seven counts against him including persuading a 17 year-old to send him sexually explicit photographs for money.

The other count stemmed from a trip he took to Florida for the purpose of “engaging in illicit sexual conduct” with a 15-year-old.

US prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining five counts under a plea agreement.

A US child pornography charge carries a sentence ranging from five to 20 years and the second charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years.

Harris, from the Chicago suburb of Naperville, was the breakout star of Cheer, a series following a cheerleading team from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, as it sought a national title.

He was arrested in September 2020 on a charge of production of child pornography.

Prosecutors alleged at the time that he solicited videos and images from two 14-year-old brothers.

According to a complaint, federal prosecutors said that Harris admitted to repeatedly asking a minor teen for pornographic videos and images between December 2018 and March 2020.

In December 2020 he was indicted on more charges alleging misconduct in Illinois, Florida and Texas.

According to the indictment, Harris allegedly solicited sex from minors at cheerleading competitions and convinced teenage boys to send him obscene photographs and videos of themselves.

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Harris later admitted to FBI agents to asking a teenage boy to send him photographs of himself, and to requesting child pornography on Snapchat from at least 10 to 15 others he knew to be minors, according to the indictment.

The second series of Cheer addresses the investigation into Harris, and dedicates an entire episode to the incidents, titled “Jerry”.

Navarro head coach Monica Aldama said her heart was “shattered into a million pieces” following the news.

“I am devastated by this shocking, unexpected news,” she wrote on social media.

“Our children must be protected from abuse and exploitation, and I’m praying hard for the victims and everyone affected.”

She also asked fans to respect her privacy as “our family mourns during this heartbreaking time”.

Harris remains in custody at a federal detention facility.

He is scheduled to be sentenced June 28.

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