Fed seeks 15-year prison sentence for former ‘Cheer’ star Jerry Harris for sex crimes

Chicago (CBS) — Federal prosecutors in Chicago are asking a judge to sentence former “Cheer” star Jerry Harris to 15 years in prison on a sex offense charge, while defense attorneys are seeking a 6-year sentence.

Harris pleaded guilty in February to charges of traveling for child pornography and illicit sex with minors, which involved multiple victims.

Harris pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining child pornography and one count of traveling with intent to engage in illegal sexual conduct. He faces a maximum prison sentence of up to 50 years if sentenced continuously.

After calling for a 15-year prison sentence for Harris, followed by 10 years of supervised release — the federal equivalent of probation — federal prosecutors argued that Harris had “used whatever was at his disposal — a competitive Her status as a cheerleader, her social media personality, and ultimately her celebrity and money, to persuade and entice her young victims to engage in sexually explicit conduct for or with her.”

Federal prosecutors wrote in their sentencing recommendation, “Like many child predators, Jeremiah Harris took advantage of a power imbalance to sexually abuse his young victims.” “They victimized boys in the cheerleading community for their insecurities and abuse of youth. Harris was persistent in her efforts to persuade victims to create and send child pornography and engage in sex acts at cheerleading events. “

But after 8 years of supervised release, seeking a more lenient sentence of 6 years in prison, Harris’s defense team described him as “both a victim and a victim”, adding that when he was a child. Then she was sexually assaulted.

“Accepting the narrative that this case is another example of a bad actor abusing his public position to victimize others would be both natural and easy. But such a simple, acoustic narrative is the hard facts of the case.” injustice that we must face collectively,” defense lawyers wrote. “The trauma he experienced as a child normalized the heterogeneous version of what he understood to be a fit relationship. No one stood up for him when he was sexually assaulted as a minor. She is grateful that is not the case for her victims. In this case, which she deeply regrets.”

Federal prosecutors also acknowledged that Harris’ own traumatic childhood was a mitigating factor in his crimes, but said “while Harris had a very difficult childhood, this was not a blank investigation into sexual crimes against minors.” “

In 2020, breakout star Harris – who hails from Naperville – was indicted on charges of child pornography and soliciting minors for sex. The investigation led to a search of her Illinois home—sparked by a Texas mother named Kristen, whose sons are her two alleged victims.

In episode 5 of the show’s new season, which was released in January, titled “Jerry”, Kristen’s boys describe the abuse they say came through messaging.

“I told him I was 13, and then – right off the bat – he asked me, ‘Can I have butt pics?’ or ‘Can you send butt pics?'” says one of the boys.

Those complaints were at the center of federal prosecutors’ initial case against Harris.

According to those allegations, Harris contacted the twin underage boys on social media apps, and repeatedly asked them to make sexually explicit videos and pictures of themselves and send them to Harris. One of the boys agreed to send Harris his nude photos and videos, but the other refused.

A federal complaint says the boy who sent the images informed Harris during their initial online encounter that he was 13 years old.

The victims’ mothers tipped federal agents, who found pornographic images and text messages with Harris on one of her phones. The boy told the mother that Harris had asked for pictures. The boy said he had sent Harris more than a dozen photos of his genitals, and that Harris had sent similar photos of himself to the boy, the complaint alleges.

Court documents showed a text exchange where prosecutors said Harris messaged the boy and asked for photos, including “robbed” photos.

Prosecutors also showed a young boy performing a cheerleading position known as a “needle.” He said a Snapchat account using Harris’ name asked for a video to be taken of and showing the child naked.

In an interview with investigators, Harris admitted to soliciting photos via Snapchat between December 2018 and March 2020, the complaint said. The kid is a competitive cheerleader who also met Harris at a cheer event where Harris asked for oral sex, according to the complaint. The boy refused.

The allegations also accused Harris of sending text messages to both boys, soliciting them for sex, but the boys refused.

Since then, four more alleged victims have been added – and more charges stem from Naperville, Texas and Orlando.

Investigators said Harris admitted to soliciting and receiving pornographic photos from 10 to 14 children he knew were minors — right when he himself was 18.

A hearing on Harris’ sentencing is set for July 6.

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