Cheer star Jerry Harris arrested on child pornography charge
Cheer star Jerry Harris has been arrested on a child pornography charge, EW has confirmed.
Harris was arrested on Thursday morning and charged with one count of federal child pornography for allegedly enticing 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. He is scheduled to appear in a Chicago Federal Court this afternoon.
According to the criminal complaint, which EW has reviewed, Harris “contacted the underage boy on a social media application and repeatedly enticed him to produce sexually explicit videos and photographs of himself and send them to Harris.” The boy was 13 years old at the time of the alleged crime, the complaint states.
Two 14-year-old twin brothers in Texas filed a lawsuit against the Netflix docuseries star on Tuesday 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.
Attorneys for the minor brothers confirmed to EW that Harris’ arrest is 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.”
Representatives for Harris have not responded to EW's multiple requests for comment, but a spokesperson for Harris told PEOPLE on Monday, "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."
The criminal complaint states that Harris admitted in a voluntary interview on Monday that he asked a 13-year-old to take graphic photos and videos to send to him on Snapchat.
According to the complaint, “Harris further admitted to engaging in ongoing Snapchat conversations with Minor 1 beginning in December 2018 and continuing through March 2020, during which time Harris repeatedly asked Minor 1 to send him photographs and videos depicting Minor 1’s penis and buttocks areas. Harris acknowledged to law enforcement that he in fact received such photos and videos from Minor 1 through the Snapchat application.”
It states Harris also admitted to “soliciting and receiving child pornography on Snapchat from at least between 10 to 15 other individuals he knew were minors.”
When asked why Harris is only being charged with one count of producing child pornography after admitting to further crimes, Fitzpatrick told EW the investigation is ongoing.
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."
If found guilty, Harris could serve between 15-30 years in prison in accordance with federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.