The following article contains a discussion of child sexual abuse.
When the world went into lockdown in 2020, streaming services largely benefited. With more time to binge than ever, some series have gone viral, like the ridiculous Tiger King documentaries and the addictive sports competition show Cheer. The latter followed Navarro College’s quest for a national cheerleading championship and became an instant hit. That year, it was nominated for six Emmys and took home three.
While other “Cheer” stars captivated audiences, one athlete in particular stood out: Jerry Harris. His passion for encouraging his teammates made him extremely popular and memorable. Vanity Fair dubbed him “the feel-good star we need right now” in May 2020, and Elite Daily called him a “fan favorite and person of value.”
As it turns out, the most impressive stunt the cheerleader pulled off was disguising her true character. In September 2020, USA Today announced that Harris was under investigation by the FBI for soliciting sex and explicit photos of a minor. The New York Times later reported on his arrest, now his sentence has finally been determined.
Jerry Harris was sentenced to 12 years in prison
According to USA Today, Jerry Harris was sentenced to 12 years in prison and eight years of supervised release. The decision comes shy of the 15-year prison sentence sought by prosecutors, who cited Harris’ celebrity status as an additional tool to pressure victims. Harris would allegedly offer to pay minors for sexual behavior and if they refused he would threaten to distribute explicit videos previously sent to him via NBC News.
TMZ shared a statement Harris made to his victims in court: “I am ashamed because I know I took advantage of your youth and weakness. I was wrong and selfish. I have harmed you and I blame no one. I regret my decisions and I am deeply sorry.” Netflix, meanwhile, has given those affected by its actions a platform to share their stories. An entire episode of the second season of “Cheer” is the episodes of Dedicated to Harris’ charges.
Charlie, who became a victim when he was just 13, shared that he replied to Harris’ initial Instagram DMs because he was a member of such a prestigious cheer team and the boy “didn’t want him to dislike me.” (via E! News). Charlie further claimed that Harris attacked him at a cheer contest and also interacted with his twin brother, but they initially felt that speaking out would do more harm than good given Harris’ popularity. Netflix hasn’t confirmed Cheer Season 3 yet.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, help is available to help. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact the RAINN National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).