In December 2020, Jerry Harris, beloved by fans of Netflix’s Cheer, pleaded not guilty to seven federal charges related to child pornography and sexual acts with a minor. Now, more than a year later, Harris has reversed course and pleaded guilty to two counts.
Harris appeared in court on Thursday and pleaded guilty to a count of receiving child pornography and a count of crossing state lines to engage in a sexual act with a minor, according to NBC News. Harris was originally arrested in 2020 on suspicion of possessing child pornography, after twin brothers filed complaints alleging that Harris solicited naked pictures from them when they were 13 and asked one of them who he met at a cheerleading event for oral sex. Federal authorities brought charges against the Cheer star a few months later, and he has been incarcerated ever since.
Fresh off his newfound fame at the time of his arrest, Harris initially denied the allegations against him. Through a spokesperson, Harris released a statement that said, “We categorically dispute the claims made against Jerry Harris, which are alleged to have occurred when he was a teenager.” The allegations against Harris took place over three years beginning in 2017, when he was 18. Despite his statement to the press, Harris had reportedly already admitted to investigators that he knowingly solicited and received nude pictures from other minors.
As Harris fought the charges in court, Cheer distanced itself from him. The show even dedicated an entire episode in season 2, released in January, to giving the twin brothers, Sam and Charlie, a platform to tell their stories. In the episode, Sam said that he was 13 when Harris first messaged him on Instagram and solicited nude photos from him. Both brothers said Harris contacted them to request sexual images and videos, and sent some of his own via Snapchat and Instagram.
After Harris entered his guilty plea, his attorney, Todd Pugh, said in a statement that Harris did so “because he wishes to take responsibility for his actions and publicly convey his remorse for the harm he has caused the victims in this case.” Pugh added that Harris himself was a victim of abuse. “Jerry was himself exploited, manipulated, and sexually abused as a child within the Cheer Community in a way that perversely made him believe that this sexual conduct was somehow normal when it was not.” According to Pugh, Harris has been in therapy since his arrest.
Meanwhile, Kristen, the twins’ mother, also released a statement on the guilty plea. “In an effort to put a stop to a serial predator and avert harm to other children, my sons took the brave step of speaking publicly about the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of Jerry Harris,” she said, according to NBC News. “I will continue my mission to hold Jerry Harris and his enablers fully accountable both in the courts of law and the court of public opinion.”
Per the plea deal, as reported by The Chicago Tribune, Harris’ guilty plea holds a mandatory minimum of 5 years, but could be sentenced to up to 50. His sentencing has been scheduled for June 28.