CHICAGO - Jerry Harris, the star of the Netflix show ‘Cheer,’ pleaded guilty Thursday to child pornography charges.
"In an effort to put a stop to a serial predator and avert harm to other children, my sons took the brave step of speaking publicly about the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of Jerry Harris. Harris’ admission of guilt today gives me hope that the pain and grief that my sons have suffered as a result of speaking up has not been in vain. I will continue my mission to hold Jerry Harris and his enablers fully accountable both in the courts of law and the court of public opinion," said Kristen, mother of Harris’ victims.
Harris pleaded guilty to two counts in the case: receiving child pornography and traveling across state lines to engage in illicit sexual acts with a minor under the age of 15.
The actor from Naperville was indicted in December 2020 on charges alleging misconduct in Illinois, Florida and Texas. Federal prosecutors also alleged that Harris tried to persuade a minor to engage in oral sex at cheerleading events, solicited another for sex and admitted to having five to 10 victims in all.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Heather McShain ordered Harris, 22, held behind bars in October 2020, after he was initially charged with one count of production of child pornography. The judge suggested he would be a danger to the community if released.
McShain said Harris exploited his position in the cheerleading community and rejected any "blurred line" between Harris’ age and that of his alleged victims.
"(Harris) was not a child," McShain said. "He was an adult."
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.
"We are grateful that the U.S. Attorney and the FBI investigated this case, located additional victims and took action. Now, Jerry Harris’ guilt has been firmly established. This was made possible because our clients’ mother, Kristen initially had the courage to report Harris to the FBI and provided evidentiary proof of the manipulation, sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation that her sons had suffered. We now urge the authorities to undertake a thorough investigation of the United States All Star Federation, Varsity Spirit, and Cheer Athletics to determine which of their executives, employees, and representatives could have stopped Harris’ abuse and failed to do so," victims’ attorney Sarah Klein said.
The "Cheer" docuseries follows the competitive cheerleading squad from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.
Associated Press contributed to this report.