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Jerry Harris on Thursday was charged federally with producing child pornography, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Illinois.
The Cheer star is accused of enticing an underage boy to produce sexually explicit videos and photos of himself.
The complaint released Thursday charges the 21-year-old Harris with one count of producing child pornography. He was arrested Thursday morning and is scheduled to make an initial court appearance later in the day.
According to federal authorities, Harris allegedly contacted an underage boy on social media and repeatedly enticed him to make sexually explicit videos and photographs of himself and send them to Harris. The victim in the case allegedly informed Harris during the initial online encounter that he was 13 years old, the complaint states.
In addition to the criminal charge, a lawsuit was also filed against Harris and three cheer organizations by the mother of twin boys in Texas for alleged sex crimes. It appears the victim in the criminal case is one of the two victims from the civil case.
“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,” said the attorneys for the boys’ mother (Morgan Stewart and Sarah Klein of Manly, Stewart & Finaldi) in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”
The statement continued, “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.”
The FBI had been investigating allegations that Harris solicited sexually explicit photos and sex from minors, according to USA Today. Agents reportedly executed a search warrant Monday afternoon at a home in Naperville, Illinois.
Production of child pornography is punishable by a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years.
The first season of Cheer premiered in January on Netflix. Harris became a breakout star. The show was nominated for six Emmys and Harris was scheduled to be a presenter.
While Netflix hasn’t announced the show’s renewal, reports have circulated that the director Greg Whiteley was in the middle of filming a second season but had to stop because of the pandemic. When asked about the status of the show prior to the Harris allegations and arrest, Whiteley told THR, “We’re still trying to figure that out. We were, of course, exploring the possibility of doing a second season — but the coronavirus, for obvious reasons, complicated all that.” He added: “I would love to keep filming those people. But I don’t really have any good answers at this point.”
Around 2:30 p.m., Netflix said in a statement, “Like everyone we are shocked by this news. Any abuse of minors is a terrible crime and we respect the legal process.”
Sources say Netflix has no plans to remove Cheer from its service.
2:25: p.m.: Updated with statement from Netflix.
11:20 a.m.: Updated with statement from lawyers representing alleged Harris’ victims in a civil suit.
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