Jerry Harris’ Horrific Child Porn Scandal Looms Over Netflix’s ‘Cheer’


Navarro College’s formidable cheer squad will return to the mat on Jan. 12 when Netflix debuts the second season of their hit reality series Cheer.

But a once-beloved member of the team will not be joining his teammates as they vie for yet another championship title. Instead, Jeremiah “Jerry” Harris will be sitting inside a prison cell in Chicago.

Harris faces at least 30 years behind bars on charges related to child pornography and the sexual exploitation of five minors. Federal prosecutors claim Harris is a serial child predator who enticed boys as young as 13 to send him sexually explicit videos and photos. (Harris pleaded not guilty to the seven charges brought against him.)

It doesn’t seem as though the 22-year-old has quite grasped the severity of his situation as he waits for a trial date to be set, as Navarro head cheerleading coach Monica Aldama admits in the new season that Harris had written her a letter where he didn’t seem to have a care in the world, daydreaming about his plans to become a motivational speaker.

“It was hard to read,” Aldama confesses, adding that she was caught off guard by his cheery tone. “His letter was so optimistic. Like there was not one negative thing in this letter. I want to be supportive. Yet I’m so disappointed. I have all these emotions that are just fighting each other.”

News of Harris’ arrest in 2020 was met with shock. Just months before, he’d emerged as the breakout star of the series. Viewers couldn’t help but root for the team’s always-positive underdog, who despite his own struggles, including losing his mother to cancer at the age of 16, had always shown up to practice with a smile and delivered motivational pep talks to his fellow squad members.

His popularity transitioned off-screen, where Harris was signing deals left and right. When the pandemic swept through the world in March 2020, Netflix tapped Harris to chat about mental health on its weekly Wanna Talk About It? social media series. He gave interviews to glossy magazines, racked up more than 1 million followers on Instagram, moved into his own home, interviewed A-listers for Ellen DeGeneres’ show at the Oscars, and even had Oprah come calling.

That all came crashing down when Harris was pulled out of his suburban home in Naperville, Illinois, by FBI agents in September 2020.

Federal agents had begun looking into Harris a few months before his arrest after Texas mother Kristen had reached out to officials in distress about what she had come to learn about Harris’ alleged interactions with her now 16-year-old twin sons Charlie and Sam. (The family’s last name has been withheld to protect their identity, as the boys are alleged underage victims of sexual abuse.)

The then-13-year-olds, who are openly gay cheerleaders, first met a 19-year-old Harris over social media in 2018. At the time, Harris was already well-known in the competitive cheerleading world as an All-Star Cheer personality and Cheer Athletics coach, and has been accused of using his status to his advantage.

Oprah Winfrey speaks with the stars of Netflix’s Cheer (L-R) Monica Aldama, Jerry Harris, Gaby Butter, Lexi Brumback, TT Baker and Dillion Brandt during Oprah’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus Tour presented by WW at American Airlines Center on February 15, 2020, in Dallas, Texas.

Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty

“Almost immediately” after adding the boys on social media Harris began requesting “booty pics,” despite knowing their age, according to federal court documents and a $1 million civil suit filed against Harris in Texas.

“Do it naked and take a video and show me,” Harris allegedly replied to a Snapchat story that Charlie posted in April 2020, where the teen showed off a complicated flexibility maneuver called a “needle,” with his fuzzy stuffed animal hanging from his bunk bed in the background.

Harris’ appetite for explicit images was unrelenting, federal prosecutors allege, claiming that during one FaceTime call with Charlie, Harris instructed him to “bend over more” and show “your butthole.”

As a manipulation tactic, Harris is accused of threatening to unfriend the twins on social media if they didn’t send over nude photos. In other cases, he would allegedly attempt to entice them with the promise of boosting their social media popularity with a post from him, but only if they sent him the explicit footage.

Harris even pursued the twins—particularly Charlie—offline, according to court documents, hugging and groping the boys at various cheerleading competitions. During one such event in Fort Worth in February 2019, Harris allegedly pressured Charlie to come with him to a secluded bathroom stall.

“Harris proceeded to sexually harass and molest [Charlie] and started demanding and begging [him] to perform oral sex on Harris,” the civil suit alleges. Charlie claimed he refused and rushed out of the bathroom after his brother and other teammates began texting because he had been gone for so long.

Harris proceeded to sexually harass and molest [Charlie] and started demanding and begging [him] to perform oral sex on Harris…

A few months later, when both Charlie and Harris were in Florida for another competition, Harris propositioned Charlie again for sex, according to USA Today, which published screenshots of the alleged conversation.

“Hey btw I found a place for us to do stuff it’s actually pretty good haha,” Harris allegedly texted the boy. When Charlie turned him down, saying “maybe another time,” Harris responded, “There won’t be but it’s ok I still wanna hang out w you.”

In Feb. 2020, a month after Cheer debuted, Harris allegedly sent one of the twins a Snapchat with a portion of his face showing, writing, “Would you ever want to [fuck]?”

“It was just really weird for me—especially being the first instance that stuff has ever happened to me,” Charlie told USA Today. “I’ve never flirted with anyone before, had a relationship with a boy before. It was weird to me that that was my first one.”

“It was just eating me alive,” he added, admitting he suffered from anxiety and cried at school due to Harris constantly pressuring him. “It was just making me so gross and uncomfortable. Every time I saw his name or something like that, I was just cringing about it.”

The boys’ mother claimed she discovered what was going on in February 2020, uncovering the texts and a video Harris had allegedly sent of himself masturbating.

At first, Kristen said she felt sympathy for the Navarro cheerleader, having watched Cheer and knowing Harris’ family struggles. She had instructed her sons not to have any further communication with Harris but changed her mind when she realized this was potentially not an isolated event.

In a voluntary interview with federal prosecutors, Harris admitted to exchanging nude photos and videos on Snapchat with around 15 other minors; having sex with a 15-year-old boy during a cheer event in 2019; and paying a teen for nude photos, according to court papers.

A 17-year-old claimed to officials that Harris had pestered him for nude photos for three hours over Snapchat in 2020, and eventually offered the boy cash for the explicit pictures. The 17-year-old obtained the naked photos from a willing friend, who was also 17, and sent them to Harris. As a sign of good faith, Harris sent the boy a payment of $100 electronically, the criminal complaint alleges.

Over the course of summer 2020, Harris allegedly sent the 17-year-old up to $3,000 in exchange for nude photos and Snapchat video calls, where he reportedly instructed the teen to “spread his ass cheeks” and “show his butthole” for the camera.

Although Harris was initially arrested on one child pornography charge regarding his alleged conduct with the twins, due to information provided by the other minors, federal prosecutors hit Harris with fresh charges in December 2020.

He was charged with four counts of sexual exploitation of children, one count of receiving and attempting to receive child pornography, one count of traveling with the attempt to engage in sexual conduct with a minor, and one count of enticement.

While his legal team tried to persuade the judge to release Harris on bail, proposing a plan where Harris would be under the watch of four “cheer moms” whom he had met through the competitive cheerleading world, prosecutors strongly opposed the bid.

He was charged with four counts of sexual exploitation of children, one count of receiving and attempting to receive child pornography, one count of traveling with the attempt to engage in sexual conduct with a minor, and one count of enticement.

They claimed in court papers that Harris had all the signs of being a “serial child predator” and there was a high risk that he would abuse minors if he was released. To bolster their argument, they alleged that before his arrest, Harris was somehow alerted that he was under investigation and had destroyed his cellphone. Yet just weeks later, he obtained a new phone with the intent to “victimize minor boys,” according to court documents.

A judge sided with prosecutors and Harris remains in prison as he awaits a trial date.

Matters were made worse for Cheer when two additional men who were also featured on the show were arrested on the same day in February 2021. Mitchell Ryan, 24, faced charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child stemming from an incident in July 2020. A grand jury declined to indict Ryan on the charges in September, much to the disappointment of the accuser’s family.

Meanwhile, Robert Joseph Scianna Jr., who made a brief appearance on the show and was never a Navarro cheerleader, was charged in Virginia with taking indecent liberties with a child and use of an electronic communication device to solicit sex. Scianna pleaded guilty to the charge in August and is awaiting sentencing.

When Netflix announced it was giving Cheer a second season, the immediate question was how it was going to address Harris’ departure from the team. The streaming giant ended up devoting an entire episode to the situation, with emotional interviews from Harris’ former teammates, including La’Darius Marshall and Gabi Butler, coach Aldama, and even accusers Charlie and Sam.

“I would have snatched him up if I would have ever known about any of this stuff,” Marshall said. “I feel like it would have been worse than him going to jail. I don’t care how famous you are. I don’t care about how much money you got, I don’t care how much people love you—that doesn’t give you the right to do something like this, especially when one of your best friends you know went through something like that.”

While Butler, 23, professed that she was “heartbroken” by the allegations, she admitted that she couldn’t abandon her friend. “I can’t and I won’t,” Butler said. “I can’t turn my back on him because he was there when I needed him.”

Netflix itself has stayed largely quiet on the matter, issuing a lone statement after Harris’ arrest, and declined to comment on the two other men’s arrests last February. “Like everyone we are shocked by this news,” a company spokesperson said at the time. “Any abuse of minors is a terrible crime, and we respect the legal process.”

As for Aldama, who tearfully said Harris was like a child to her, she sees almost no hope for his situation. “It’s sad and it makes me tear up every time I think about it,” she said.



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