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Prosecutors Seek 15 Years In Prison For 'Cheer' Star Jerry Harris On Child Porn Charges
Prosecutors want Jerry Harris of "Cheer" fame to serve 15 years after he pleaded guilty to child porn charges. His defense attorneys claim that Harris' history as a victim of childhood sexual abuse gave him a "skewed version" of relationships.
Prosecutors are seeking out 15 years of prison time for a former star of the Netflix docuseries “Cheer,” after he was convicted of soliciting sexual images from underage boys.
Harris pleaded guilty in February to one count each of receiving child pornography and traveling with the intention to engage in illegal sexual conduct.
In a sentencing memo submitted on Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Guzman asked U.S. District Judge Manish Shah to consider sentencing Jerry Harris to 15 years behind bars, the Associated Press reports.
Guzman wrote that Harris, 22, used “his status as a competitive cheerleader, his social media persona and eventually his celebrity and money to persuade and entice his young victims to engage in sexually explicit conduct for him or with him.”
Meanwhile, the former docuseries star’s attorneys are hoping for a lighter sentence of just six years.
The cheerleader was arrested after he solicited sex from minors at cheerleading competitions and convinced teenage boys to send him obscene photographs and videos of themselves. The Naperville, Illinois resident has been held in a federal detention facility without bond since he was arrested on the child pornography charges in September 2020.
A mother of two teen twins reached out to the authorities to report alleged sexual misconduct towards both her sons starting in 2018. In a motion for pretrial detention filed in 2020, prosecutors alleged that Harris "exploited and violated at least 10 minor boys by repeatedly requesting the boys send him sexually explicit images of themselves."
Many of the charges were thrown out after his February plea deal in which Harris admitted to receiving sexual images over Snapchat from a 17-year-old boy in 2020. He also admitted to traveling to Florida in 2019 to engage in a sexual act with a 15-year-old boy.
Harris’ lawyers have recently said that their client was a victim of childhood sexual abuse, and was sexually assaulted as a child.
“The trauma he experienced as a child normalized his skewed version of what he understood to be appropriate relationships,” they said, according to the Associated Press. "No one was there to stand up for him when he was sexually assaulted as a minor. He is grateful that is not the case for his victims in this case, to whom he is profoundly remorseful.”
Harris, who was born in the Chicago suburb of Hinsdale and raised in nearby Bolingbrook, was the breakout star of the Emmy-winning docuseries that follows his cheerleading team from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.
“Cheer” was an instant success when it was released in January 2020, and Harris drew fans for his upbeat attitude and his encouraging “mat talk.” Prior to his arrest, he interviewed celebrities on the red carpet at the Academy Awards for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
Harris is expected to be sentenced on July 6. The charges to which he pleaded guilty carry sentences of between five and 50 years in prison, according to ABC News.