CHICAGO (AP) – A prosecutor has asked a federal judge to sentence Jerry Harris, a former star of the Netflix documentary series “Cheer”, to 15 years in prison for forcing teenage boys to send him obscene photos and videos of himself and encourage sex from minors at cheerleading competitions.
Lawyers for Harris are demanding a six-year jail term.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Guzman wrote in a court note late Wednesday that Harris used “his status as a competitive cheerleader, his social media persona and ultimately his celebrity and money, to persuade and entice his young victims to engage in sexually explicit conduct for him. or with him. “
Guzman also requested that the sentence include 10 years of supervised release after imprisonment.
Harris, 22, from the suburb of Naperville, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one counts each for receiving child pornography and traveling with the intent to engage in illegal sexual conduct. He is due to be sentenced on July 6 by U.S. District Judge Manish Shah.
Defense attorneys who asked that a six-year prison term be followed by eight years of supervised release described Harris as “both victim and victim,” saying he himself was sexually assaulted as a child.
“The trauma he experienced as a child normalized his skewed version of what he understood as appropriate relationships. No one was there to stand up for him when he was sexually assaulted as a minor. He is grateful that it is not the case for his victims in this case that he deeply regrets. ” wrote defense attorneys.
Federal prosecutors acknowledged that the actor’s traumatic childhood was a mitigating factor in his crimes, but said, “while Harris’ childhood was very difficult, it was not a blank check to commit sexual crimes against minors.”
Harris remains in custody at a federal jail.
Harris was arrested in September 2020 charge of making child pornography. Prosecutors at the time claimed he was requesting videos and photos from two 14-year-old brothers.
According to a complaint, federal prosecutors said Harris admitted to having asked a minor teen about pornographic videos and pictures between December 2018 and March 2020.
So in December of that year, he was indicted on several charges allegation of misconduct in Illinois, Florida and Texas. According to the indictment, Harris allegedly requested sex from minors at cheerleading competitions and convinced teenage boys to send him obscene photographs and videos of himself.
Harris admitted to FBI agents that he had asked a teenage boy to send him obscene photographs of himself and to request child pornography on Snapchat from at least 10 to 15 others he knew were minors, according to the indictment.
“Cheer” was a huge success when it was released in January 2020, and Harris became wildly popular for his optimistic attitude and his encouraging “mat talk”. Harris even interviewed celebrities on the red carpet at the Oscars for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
The documentary series follows the competitive cheerleading team from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.