'Cheer' Star Jerry Harris Pleads Guilty in Child Pornography Case

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Jerry Harris pleaded guilty in his child pornography case in a court hearing in Chicago on Thursday. The Cheer star pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography as well as traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.

Harris' sentencing is scheduled to take place on June 28. He faces five to 50 years in prison, and it will be up to the judge to decide how much time he serves.

A statement from Harris' lawyers noted that he wanted to take responsibility for his actions and "publicly convey his remorse for the harm he has caused the victims in this case."

"Jerry is a 22-year-old young man whose story can only be understood though the lens of the extreme poverty, sexual abuse, and neglect of his childhood," the statement reads. "The criminal conduct in this case also took place in the context of a competitive Cheer Community where inappropriately sexualizing and sexually abusing children was far too common and too often overlooked. Jerry was himself exploited, manipulated, and sexually abused as a child within the Cheer Community in a way that perversely made him believe that this sexual conduct was somehow normal when it was not. There being no safe harbor to discuss his exploitation, Jerry instead masked his trauma and put on the bright face and infectious smile that the world came to know. As we now know, Jerry became an offender himself as an older teenager."

The statement said that since his incarceration, Harris has been getting mental health treatment and going to therapy.

"With his plea of guilty, Jerry will spend the rest of his life making amends for what he has done," the statement continues. "His hope is that he can demonstrate to those harmed by his conduct that he can one day earn back his value to them as a human being and that as he continues to become an adult, he can indeed make a contribution that matters."

The victims' mother, Kristen, also shared a statement on Thursday about Harris' guilty plea.

"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," the statement reads. "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."

Back in December 2020, Harris pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. A spokesperson for Harris previously told ET in a statement that he disputed any claims against him. "We categorically dispute the claims made against Jerry Harris, which are alleged to have occurred when he was a teenager," the statement read. "We are confident that when the investigation is completed the true facts will be revealed."

Harris was arrested on child pornography charges in September 2020 and has remained in custody ever since. According to the criminal complaint obtained by ET at the time, Harris allegedly contacted an underage boy on social media, who he knew was 13 years old, and repeatedly enticed him to produce sexually explicit videos and photographs of himself, and send them to him. When the FBI 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, per the complaint.

In October 2020, federal prosecutors filed a motion asking the judge to keep Harris detained as he awaited his trial. In the court documents obtained by ET at the time, prosecutors argued Harris demonstrated that he "does not care about being caught committing his offenses, or simply cannot stop himself," and stated that house arrest wasn't enough to prevent Harris from reaching out to other minors.

According to the documents, Harris allegedly sent and requested inappropriate photos from multiple minors for over two years. Prosecutors alleged that Harris also sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy at a public cheer event after following him into a bathroom. Per the doc, Harris also allegedly offered minors substantial sums of money to perform sexually explicit conduct, and admitted to making many attempts to meet minors that he met online in person.

Season 2 of Cheer on Netflix addressed the shocking fallout of Harris' arrest, after he had become a fan favorite of the documentary series. In one episode, twin brothers Charlie and Sam speak out about what they say happened between them and Harris. Charlie, an aspiring cheerleader, was 13 years old when he says he started communicating with Harris. 

"Right off the bat, he asked me, 'Can I have butt pics?' Or, 'Can you send butt pics?' I was kind of starstruck and I didn't want him to not like me or to not be friends with me… I was willing to do that and was kind of blindsided by his notoriety at that time," Charlie alleged. "I've had times where if I would have, like, left him on 'delivered' for a couple of hours or not responded to him, or acted like a different tone that wasn't flirty or anything, that he would make me feel bad about myself and say that I was just using him for being popular and that I didn’t actually love him."

Charlie alleged that when he later met Harris in person at a cheering event in 2019, he tried to avoid him, but Harris repeatedly begged him for sex and he said no. Meanwhile, Sam alleged that Harris began messaging him as well.

"It made me feel super uncomfortable, and he would just continually push at that," Sam said. "And, like, I really didn't know anyone else to talk to about it than just, like, the two of us. And it was just like… It almost felt like we were alone."

ET spoke with Cheer coach Monica Aldama in January and she talked about the emotional episode.

"It was tough to watch. But, you know, having the victims be able to talk and tell their story is very important for our industry… As tough as it is to talk about, here it's necessary in order for us to make our industry safer," she told ET.

Aldama also shared that while Harris wrote her a letter as he awaited his trial, she didn't write him back.

"It's just a very difficult situation," she said.

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