A federal judge sentenced Jerry Harris, a former star of the Netflix documentary series “Cheer,” to 12 years in prison on Wednesday for forcing teenage boys to send him obscene photos and videos of himself and to ask for sex from minors during cheerleading competitions.
US District Judge Manish Shah has also ordered that the sentence be followed by eight years of court-supervised release.
Shah told Harris to consider the sentence an “expression of the gravity of your crimes, tempered with some hope that all is not lost for you or your victims, and that some healing may take place in the future.”
Harris, 22, of a suburb of Naperville, pleaded guilty earlier this year to receiving child pornography and traveling with the intent to engage in illegal sexual conduct.
A prosecutor had demanded a 15-year sentence, followed by 10 years of supervised release, while Harris’ lawyers had demanded a six-year sentence and eight years of supervised release.
Before hearing his sentence, Harris apologized to his victims, saying, “I’m very sorry for all the trauma my abuse has caused you. I pray deep down that your suffering will end.”
“I’m not a bad person,” Harris said. “I’m still learning who I am and what my purpose is.”
Harris is in a federal prison.
Sarah Klein, an attorney for two of the victims, issued a statement saying Harris’ guilt had been “firmly established.”
“The sentence he received reflects the gravity of his crimes and the lifelong pain his victims will suffer,” Klein said.
Harris was arrested in September 2020 on charges of child pornography production. Prosecutors at the time alleged that he had requested videos and images of two 14-year-old brothers.
According to a complaint, federal prosecutors said Harris admitted to repeatedly asking an underage teen to provide pornographic videos and images between December 2018 and March 2020.
In December of that year, he was indicted on more misconduct charges in Illinois, Florida and Texas. According to the indictment, Harris asked minors for sex at cheerleading competitions and persuaded teenage boys to send him obscene photos and videos of himself.
Harris admitted to FBI agents that he had asked a teen to send him lewd pictures of himself, and that, according to the indictment, he had requested child pornography on Snapchat from at least 10 to 15 others he knew were underage.
“Cheer” was a huge success when it was released in January 2020 and Harris became wildly popular for his cheerful demeanor and his encouraging “mattalk”. Harris even interviewed celebrities on the red carpet at the Academy Awards for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
The docuseries follows the competitive cheerleaders of Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.