Cheer star Jerry Harris 'exploited and violated' 10 boys, prosecutors allege
Harris, whose wholesome persona made him a breakout of the Netflix docuseries, was arrested in September on a federal child pornography charge. He allegedly enticed an underage boy to produce sexually explicit videos and photos of himself, Joseph Fitzpatrick with the U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern Illinois District, said at the time.
The filing from prosecutors on Tuesday, obtained by Buzzfeed, alleges that for over two years, Harris targeted multiple boys, including "when he sexually assaulted a fifteen-year-old boy."
"Harris repeatedly targeted young boys by reaching into their bedrooms through his cell phone and used guilt, threats, and money to persuade them to engage in sexually explicit activity," according to the filing.
Additionally, prosecutors claim that Harris, "by his own admission," assaulted a 15-year-old boy "in an unlocked public bathroom, during an event attended by dozens of responsible adults." They also allege that he has "victimized at least 5 to 10 children who are all forever damaged by his criminal conduct."
EW has reached out to Harris' lawyer for comment.
Describing Harris, 21, as "a clear and present danger to the community," the prosecutors are requesting that he be detained pending trial. He faces 15-30 years in prison.
One of the alleged victims was only 13 years old when Harris "began grooming" him and pressured him to "send him sexually explicit photographs and videos of himself by text for a period of years," according to the filing.
Two 14-year-old twin brothers in Texas filed a lawsuit against the Netflix star in September accusing him of sexual exploitation and abuse, alleging Harris sent them sexually explicit messages, requested they send him nudes, and solicited one of them for oral sex.
Representatives for Harris did not respond to EW's requests for comment at the time, but a spokesperson for Harris told PEOPLE that, in regard to the lawsuit, "We categorically dispute the claims made against Jerry Harris, which are alleged to have occurred when he was a teenager. We are confident that when the investigation is completed the true facts will be revealed."
Attorneys for the twin brothers previously told EW that Harris’ arrest was in response to their clients’ complaint.
“We are grateful that the U.S. Attorney and the FBI have taken swift action to protect children by investigating, arresting, and charging Jerry Harris,” they said in a statement to EW. “This was made possible because our clients’ mother had the courage to report Harris to the FBI as well as the Fort Worth Police Department and provided evidentiary proof of the manipulation, sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation that her sons had suffered. We urge the authorities to undertake a thorough investigation of the United States All-Star Federation, Varsity Spirit, and Cheer Athletics to determine which of their executives, employees, and representatives could have stopped Harris’ abuse and failed to do so.”
Tuesday's filing claims Harris used his newfound fame and success from Cheer to add to his "predatory arsenal."
"As Harris' fame grew through his acting career, Harris appears to have added to his predatory arsenal by using money to exploit his minor victims," federal prosecutors allege. "Recent victims were offered substantial sums of money, sometimes over $1,000, to perform sexually explicit conduct for Harris over Snapchat or FaceTime while Harris masturbated."
In September, a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement to EW, "Like everyone we are shocked by this news. Any abuse of minors is a terrible crime and we respect the legal process."
Harris has a detention hearing scheduled for tomorrow.