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For many, Netflix's college cheerleading documentary Cheer was one of the bright spots of this year. But, the past few days have changed that, as one of the subjects of that series, Jerry Harris, came under investigation by the FBI for child pornography. Now, Harris has actually been arrested on one count of producing child pornography.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, Jerry Harris was arrested today in Chicago on one federal child pornography charge for allegedly convincing an underage boy to make sexually explicit photos and videos of himself. According to the criminal complaint, Harris, who is 21, got into contact with the boy through social media and proceeded to repeatedly try to entice the boy to produce said explicit videos and photos and then send them to Harris. The boy, who was only 13 the first time he interacted with Harris, has said that he did inform the Cheer star of his age during that online encounter.
A video posted to Twitter by USA Today earlier this week, showed that there are twin boys who have accused Harris of soliciting them for child pornography, which is what set off the investigation. Twins Charlie and Sam, now 14, came forward to talk about what happened, along with their mother, Kristen, from their home in Texas, and you can see the footage here:
Harris is set to make his first appearance in court today before U.S. Magistrate Judge M. David Weisman in Chicago. The investigation, which remains ongoing, was handled by the FBI Chicago Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force, which includes several local law enforcement agencies, and was also aided by the FBI Waco, Texas, Resident Agency.
During their interview, the boys, who are both cheerleaders, said that Harris harassed them both online and at cheer competitions when they were all in attendance, and also noted that it continued for over a year. They've also alleged that Harris actually asked one of the brothers to have sex with him while at two different competitions held by Varsity Brands, a company which dominates much of the industry, in 2019.
Jerry Harris has been one of the breakout stars of Cheer since the docuseries was released in early January. The cheerleader became beloved by fans for his positive attitude and his "mat talk," which features him shouting enthusiastic encouragement for his teammates from the sidelines. Since then, Harris has appeared on stage with Oprah Winfrey, where she gave him the microphone so that he could get the crowd pumped, interviewed celebrities on the red carpet of the Oscars for Ellen, and filmed a video with Joe Biden in June, where he encouraged young black voters to show up on Election Day. Harris also has 1.2 million followers on Instagram, and partnerships through the platform with a number of high profile brands.
Obviously, this case is still developing, but if Jerry Harris is convicted, production of child pornography carries a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison, and a maximum of 30 years. You can stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest on this and other news in TV and movies.