Jerry Harris, the 22-year-old breakout star of the first season of Netflix’s hit cheerleading docuseries Cheer, has been sentenced to serve 12 years in prison after being found guilty of sexual assault and coercion involving teenage boys. Harris had a history of soliciting sexually explicit pictures and videos from teens dating back to December 2018, and faced a string of charges in different states for his actions at cheerleading competitions and over social media.
The charges first became public in September 2020, while the show’s second season was being filmed. Harris was initially arrested on child pornography charges, and later sued by brothers who were underage when Harris began asking them for explicit pictures. He has remained in a Chicago prison since the initial arrest.
Harris agreed to a deal which involved pleading guilty to two of seven counts, including paying a 17-year-old to send him sexually explicit photos, and traveled to Florida to “engage in illicit sexual conduct” with a 15-year-old. In 2020, he voluntarily told law enforcement that he had swapped inappropriate photos with upwards of ten to fifteen minors on Snapchat, and had sex with a 15-year-old at a 2019 competition.
Cheer, which debuted in January 2020, follows the Navarro College Cheer Team in Central Texas, and Harris instantly became a fan favorite. In February, The Ellen Show recruited him to be its red-carpet interviewer at the Oscars, where he gabbed with everyone from Scarlett Johansson to Brad Pitt. However, that all ended in September of 2020, when USA Today broke the news of an ongoing FBI investigation of his sexual interactions with minors.
The second season of Cheer premiered in January 2022, and the first episode incorporated news clips covering the accusations against Harris. “Jerry,” the fifth episode, featured interviews with teammates and coaches about Harris, in addition to interviews with two of the earliest victims to come forward.
As part of his plea, Harris’ jail time will be followed by another eight years of supervised release. The 12-year sentence is shorter than the 15 years the prosecution sought, but considerably more than the six-year sentence Harris’ lawyer requested.