“Cheer” star Jeremiah “Jerry” Harris has been sentenced to 12 years in federal prison after pleading guilty in February to two out of seven sexual abuse and child pornography charges, USA Today reported on July 6. As part of the new plea agreement, the other charges were dropped.
In a statement to People in February, Harris’s defense team claimed he decided to plead guilty “because he wishes to take responsibility for his actions and publicly convey his remorse for the harm he has caused the victims in this case.” The statement continued, “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. 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.”
Harris was initially arrested in Naperville on Sept. 17, 2020, after allegations of child sexual exploitation and abuse were brought against him in a lawsuit by an attorney representing two alleged victims. Three months later, he faced additional charges for receiving and attempting to receive child pornography, using the internet in Orlando, FL, to “persuade, induce, and entice” a minor, and traveling from Texas to Florida “for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct” with a minor.
Prosecutors also charged Harris with four counts of using, persuading, inducing, and enticing a minor “to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct.” The acts allegedly occurred in Naperville, IL, and Corsicana, TX, between August 2017 and August 2020.
Attorneys Morgan Stewart and Sarah Klein, who represent two of the alleged victims, previously addressed the charges in a statement, saying:
“We are grateful that the U,S. Attorney and the FBI have continued to investigate this case, locate additional victims and take action. This was made possible because our clients’ mother 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 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.”
If you or someone you know would like to speak with someone who is trained to assist sexual assault survivors, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
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