FBI Wants 15 Years for Former Netflix ‘Cheer’ Star Jerry Harris in Child Porn Case – NBC Chicago

Federal prosecutors in Chicago have called for a 15-year prison sentence for Jerry Harris, the former star of the Netflix documentary “Cheer” who pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of child pornography and sex crimes involving multiple victims.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Guzman wrote in a sentencing memo Wednesday night that Harris “used what he had” to commit his crimes: “his status as a competitive cheerleader, his social media persona, and ultimately his celebrity and his money, to persuade and persuade his young victims to commit suicide. engage in sexually explicit behavior for her or with him.”

As a result, one victim became anxious, couldn’t sleep, had panic attacks and was afraid of public toilets, Guzman wrote.

But Harris’ lawyers asked in their memo for a lighter six-year prison sentence, writing that “the reality is” [Harris] are perpetrators and victims,” had also been sexually abused during his childhood.

In their memo, defense attorneys also quoted Harris, who said, “I have to face what I did. I’m an adult, and I’m taking advantage of this teenage boy. I am wrong. I caused damage. I am selfish and I take advantage of their weaknesses. That’s all me. I realized what I was doing was wrong, and it was bad and I really feel sorry for it. And I’m ashamed of myself.”

Harris attorneys Todd Pugh and Joshua Herman wrote that Harris had been a “target of inmate exploitation” in prison, in part, because of his public profile.

Harris pleaded guilty in February and will be sentenced on July 6 by US District Judge Manish Shah. Harris has admitted that he offered to pay $2,000 for a sexually explicit image of one minor victim, persuaded a second to post a similar image and obtained a masturbation video of a third. He also admitted that he sexually assaulted a fourth minor victim in a public bathroom.

Guzman wrote that Harris raped the 15-year-old when Harris was 19 – and he says it happened at a cheerleading competition in Orlando “with thousands of people in attendance.”

Prosecutors also wrote that Harris destroyed his phone when he learned he was being investigated in May 2020. But then, he said, he bought a new phone and reached out to other minors looking for explicit photos and videos.

The original criminal complaint filed against Harris traces the case against him to a mother’s discovery in February 2020 of a message from Harris on the phone belonging to one of her twin boys, who is a competitive cheerleader.

Pugh and Herman dismissed in their memo the idea that Harris was using his status as a “Cheer” star to prey on minors, writing that “nothing could be further from the truth” and that “most of the misbehavior occurred long before the airing of ‘Cheers on the Moon’. January 2020.”

But Guzman argues that “while the Netflix series did bring him wider fame, Harris had been a respected and influential figure in his sport long before the television show aired. Harris is an older, more experienced athlete on a reputed elite competitive team, with a social media following, and a coach for younger and less experienced athletes.”

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