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Former 'Cheer' star pleads guilty in child pornography case
CHICAGO — Jerry Harris, former star of the Netflix documentary series "Cheer," pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges of receiving child pornography and soliciting sex from minors that could keep him in prison for decades.
During a change of plea hearing in federal court in Chicago, Harris pleaded guilty to one count of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and one count of receiving child pornography, a U.S. attorney's office spokesman said.
Harris, 22, pleaded guilty to two of seven felony counts against him, one for persuading a 17-year-old to send him sexually explicit photographs for money and the other stemming from a trip he took to Florida for the purpose of "engaging in illicit sexual conduct" with a 15-year-old. Prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining five counts under a plea agreement.
The child pornography charge carries a sentence ranging from five to 20 years and the second charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years. Harris is scheduled to be sentenced June 28. He remains in custody at a federal detention facility.
Harris, who is from the Chicago suburb of Naperville, 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.
Then in December of that year, 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.
Harris admitted to FBI agents to asking a teenage boy to send him lewd 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.
"Cheer" was a huge success when it was released in January 2020 and Harris became wildly popular for his upbeat attitude and his encouraging "mat talk." Harris even interviewed celebrities on the red carpet at the Academy Awards for "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
The docuseries follows the competitive cheerleading squad from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.