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Prosecutors seek 15 years for former ‘Cheer’ Harris star


CHICAGO (AP) — A prosecutor has asked a federal judge to sentence Jerry Harris, a former star of the Netflix documentary series “Cheer,” to 15 years in prison for coercing teenage boys into sending him obscene photos and videos. themselves and soliciting sex from minors at cheerleading competitions.

Harris’ attorneys are asking for a six-year sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Guzman wrote in a sentencing memo Wednesday night that Harris used “her competitive cheerleading status, social media persona, and eventually stardom and money, to persuade and incite her young victims to engage in sexually explicit behavior for him”. or with him.

Guzman also asked that the sentence include 10 years of supervised release after the prison sentence.

Harris, 22, of suburban Naperville, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of receiving child pornography and traveling with intent to engage in unlawful sexual conduct. He is due to be sentenced on July 6 by US District Judge Manish Shah.

Defense attorneys, asking for a six-year sentence to be followed by eight years of probation, described Harris as “both aggressor and victim”, claiming that he himself had been sexually assaulted when he was a child.

“The trauma he experienced as a child normalized his biased version of what he saw as appropriate relationships. No one was there to defend him when he was sexually assaulted as a minor. He is grateful that this is not the case for his victims in this case, to whom he expresses deep remorse. wrote the defense lawyers.

Federal prosecutors acknowledged the actor’s traumatic childhood was a mitigating factor in his crimes, but said “although Harris’ childhood was very difficult, it was not a blank check to commit. sexual offenses against minors”.

Harris is still being held in a federal detention center.

Harris was arrested in September 2020 for producing child pornography. Prosecutors alleged at the time that he solicited videos and images from two 14-year-old brothers.

According to a complaint, federal prosecutors said Harris admitted to repeatedly asking an underage teenager for pornographic videos and images between December 2018 and March 2020.

Then, in December of that year, he was indicted on further misconduct charges in Illinois, Florida and Texas. According to the indictment, Harris allegedly solicited sex from minors at cheerleading competitions and convinced teenagers to send him obscene photographs and videos of themselves.

Harris admitted to FBI agents asking a teenager to send him lewd photos of himself and asking for child pornography on Snapchat from at least 10 to 15 other people he knew were underage, according to the indictment. ‘charge.

“Cheer” was a huge hit when it was released in January 2020, and Harris has become hugely popular for his upbeat attitude and encouraging “mat talk.” Harris even interviewed celebrities on the Oscars red carpet for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

The docuseries follows Navarro College’s competitive cheerleading team in Corsicana, Texas.

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