*Content note: This story contains reference to child sexual abuse.*
Prosecutors claimed that Harris used his status to persuade his victims.
Jerry Harris, who appeared in the Netflix documentary series Cheer, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for crimes relating to child sexual abuse imagery and soliciting sex from minors.
As The Guardian reports, the sentence was handed to Harris at a federal court in Chicago yesterday. Mr Harris had been arrested in September 2020 and has remained in custody at a detention centre since then.
He pleaded guilty to one count of receiving child sexual abuse images and one count of travelling with the intent of engaging in illicit sexual conduct. These charges related to incidents in which Harris bribed a 17-year-old into sending sexual imagery, and another incident in which he travelled to Florida with the intent of “engaging in illicit sexual conduct” with a 15-year-old.
In addition to these charges, he pleaded guilty to five other counts, but, following a plea agreement, the prosecutors agreed to drop these charges.
Harris had previously been arrested following accusations that he solicited child sexual abuse imagery from two 14-year-old boys. He also admitted to requesting sexual abuse imagery between 2018 and 2020.
He was subsequently indicted on charges of soliciting sex and child sexual abuse imagery from boys at cheerleading competitions.
The prosecutors on the case told the court that Harris used his status as a star in the hugely popular series to “persuade and entice” his victims.
Prior to receiving his sentence, Harris said: “I am deeply sorry for all the trauma my abuse has caused you. I pray deep down that your suffering comes to an end.
“I’m not an evil person. I’m still learning who I am and what my purpose is.”
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, support is available. You can contact the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 77 8888.