According to Illinois prosecutors, 21-year-old Harris is charged with allegedly "enticing an underage boy to produce sexually explicit videos and photos of himself.” In the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, the minor victim, who was 13-years-old, claimed he had told Harris how old he was during their initial encounter on social media.
Earlier this week, Harris was being investigated by the FBI for soliciting sexually explicit photos and sex from minors. Since then, it's been revealed that when Harris was 19, he allegedly asked for sex and nude photos from two 13-year-old twin brothers (now 14) who met at a cheerleading competition. The boys sued Harris in Texas on September 14. The lawsuit said that the Cheer star “violated his role as a mentor, trainer, coach, sexually violated the Plaintiffs, and used his position of authority and power over the Plaintiffs.”
Production of child pornography is punishable by a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison.
A spokesperson for Harris told People earlier this week: "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."
Harris is scheduled to appear in federal court in Chicago on September 17.
A Netflix spokesperson responded to Refinery29's request for comment, saying, "Like everyone we are shocked by this news. Any abuse of minors is a terrible crime and we respect the legal process."
Refinery29 has reached out to Harris for comment.
This story was originally published Sept. 14.
Law enforcement is looking into allegations that 21-year-old Harris solicited sexually explicit photos and sex from minors, according to USA Today. Though he has not been criminally charged, on Monday, the feds executed a search warrant for his home in Naperville, Illinois.
Harris is one of the main figures from Netflix's popular documentary series Cheer, which aired in January of this year. The series, which quickly gained massive popularity as well as six Emmy nominations, followed cheerleaders at Texas’ Navarro College as they strove for the national title. What Harris lacked in skill he made up for in spirit, and was often portrayed as a source of support for his teammates and a role model to younger cheerleaders. At the end of the emotional series in which Harris overcame many personal obstacles, the cheerleader was offered a cheer scholarship to The University of Louisville, but came back to Navarro after a semester to be "with his [cheer] family."
The allegations were first brought forth by cheerleading behemoth Varsity, a company that supplies everything from uniforms to scrunchies and sponsors major cheer competitions. Varsity’s chief legal officer, Burton Brillhart, sent letters to police officers in Florida (where competitions are held) and Texas (where Navarro College is located) saying that the company learned of "inappropriate sexual conduct" allegations against Harris and as a result is cutting all ties with the star, "now and in the future."
In May 2019, Harris wrote on social media that he was coaching athletes at National Cheerleaders Association camps, which are under the Varsity umbrella, but Brillhart maintains that Harris was a "former employee" who was not working for Varsity at the time of the alleged incidents.
Brillhart provided alleged evidence to the authorities in the form of social media and text messages. One was a Snapchat message that was a picture of Harris' face and the text "Would you ever want to fuck." The other is a screenshot that was part of a text exchange dated Friday, May 3, 2019. A person named “Jerry Harris” wrote, "Hey btw I found a place for us to do stuff it’s actually pretty good haha."
Since Cheer aired, Harris has gained 1.2 million followers on Instagram, been sponsored by major brands, and makes money by giving "mat talks" to people on the app Cameo for a fee. Other celebrities have also worked with him — from Oprah, Brad Pitt, and Ellen Degeneres (who had him interview celebrities at the Oscars) to Vice President Joe Biden (who worked with him to encourage young voters to participate in the upcoming election).
Netflix declined to comment.
Refinery29 also reached out to the FBI for comment.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).