'Cheer' Star Gabi Butler Addresses Jerry Harris Arrest: 'My Heart Is Broken'
By Meredith B. Kile
Jim Spellman/Getty Images
Cheer star Gabi Butler is speaking out on the arrest of friend and former teammate Jerry Harris.
Harris was arrested in Chicago on Thursday and charged with production of child pornography. According to the criminal complaint, Harris allegedly contacted an underage boy on social media and repeatedly enticed him to produce sexually explicit videos and photographs of himself, and send them to Harris. The complaint also alleges that the victim informed Harris during their initial online encounter that he was 13 years old.
When FBI agents raided Harris' Naperville home on Sept. 14, he admitted to agents in a voluntary interview that he had solicited lewd images and sex from the boy on numerous occasions, knowing that he was 13 years old, according to the complaint.
"Like most of you, I am shocked, dismayed, and deeply saddened by the recent news concerning my friend and former teammate Jerry Harris," Butler said in her statement on Friday. "Ever since I heard the news I have gone back and forth between sobbing uncontrollably and trying to wrap my head around why something like this could happen. To be clear, although I have been a close friend and teammate with Jerry, I was never aware of anything like what he has been accused of taking place."
"I believe the protection of children is more than important than ever in today's world and absolutely do not condone any actions that bring harm to a child," she added. "Issuing a statement like this hurts my heart more than any of you will ever know. As a Christian woman, the only thing I know to do is pray for all involved and the world we live in. My heart is broken."
Production of child pornography is punishable by a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
"Like everyone we are shocked by this news," a Netflix spokesperson told ET. "Any abuse of minors is a terrible crime and we respect the legal process."
Meanwhile, a rep for Navarro College tells ET that Navarro College takes all matters involving the abuse of minors seriously. "Out of respect for everyone involved, Navarro College will not comment on an ongoing criminal proceeding."
The federal investigation remains ongoing. ET has also reached out to Harris' spokesperson for comment.