CHICAGO (CBS) – Jerry Harris, a former star of the Netflix show "Cheer," was sentenced to 12 years in prison, followed by eight years of court-supervised release, after pleading guilty to sex crimes earlier this year.
Harris, a Naperville native, pleaded guilty in February on charges of child pornography and traveling for illicit sex with minors.
Federal prosecutors wanted Harris to serve 15 years in prison. His defense asked for a six-year sentence.
In 2020, Harris, a breakout star, was indicted on charges of child pornography and soliciting minors for sex. The investigation led to a search of his Illinois home - sparked by a Texas mother named Kristen, whose sons are two of his alleged victims.
"In an effort to put a stop to a serial predator and avert harm to other children, my sons took the brave step of speaking publicly about the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of Jerry Harris," Kristen said in a news release after Harris' plea.
In Episode 5 of the new season of the show that was released last month, titled "Jerry," Kristen's boys lay out the abuse that they say came through messaging.
"I told him that I was 13, and then after that - right off the bat - he asked me, 'Can I have butt pics?' or 'Can you send butt pics?'" one of the boys says.
Those complaints were at the center of federal prosecutors' initial case against Harris.
According to those charges, Harris contacted the twin underage boys on social media apps, and repeatedly asked them to produce sexually explicit videos and photographs of themselves and send them to Harris. One of the boys agreed to send Harris naked pictures and videos of himself, but the other declined.
The boy who did send the images informed Harris during their initial online encounter that he was 13 years old, a federal complaint states.
Federal agents were tipped off by the mother of the victims, who found pornographic images and text messages with Harris on one of their phones. The boy told the mom that Harris had asked for the photos. The boy said he had sent more than a dozen photos of his genitals to Harris, and Harris had sent similar images of himself to the boy, the complaint alleges.
Court documents showed a text exchange where prosecutors said Harris messaged the boy and asked for photos, including "booty" pics.
Prosecutors also showed a young boy doing a cheerleading position known as "the needle." They said a Snapchat account using Harris' name asked the child to do it naked and take a video to show him.
In an interview with investigators, Harris admitted asking for the photos via Snapchat between December 2018 and March 2020, the complaint states. The child is a competitive cheerleader who also met Harris at a cheer event, where Harris asked for oral sex, according the complaint. The boy refused.
The charges also accuse Harris of sending text messages to both boys, soliciting them for sex, but the boys declined.
Investigators said Harris admitted asking for and receiving explicit images from 10 to 14 kids he knew were minors - well after he himself was 18.
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