Former Cheer Star Jerry Harris Changes His Mind on Plea

Pleads guilty to 2 counts, other 5 will be dropped
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 23, 2020 1:49 PM CST
Updated Feb 11, 2022 1:02 AM CST
Jerry Harris of Cheer Enters Not Guilty Pleas
In this Feb. 9, 2020, file photo, Greta Gerwig, right, talks to Jerry Harris on the red carpet at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

(Newser) Updated: Cheer star Jerry Harris pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges of receiving child pornography and soliciting sex from minors that could keep him in prison for decades, the AP reports. During a change of plea hearing in federal court in Chicago, Harris pleaded guilty to one count of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and one count of receiving child pornography, a US attorney's office spokesman said. Harris, 22, pleaded guilty to two of seven felony counts against him, one for persuading a 17-year-old to send him sexually explicit photographs for money and the other stemming from a trip he took to Florida for the purpose of “engaging in illicit sexual conduct” with a 15-year-old. Prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining five counts under a plea agreement. The child pornography charge carries a sentence ranging from five to 20 years and the second charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years. Harris is scheduled to be sentenced June 28. Our original story from Dec. 23, 2020, follows:

Cheer star Jerry Harris has pleaded not guilty to federal child pornography charges and allegations that he solicited sex from minors at cheerleading competitions and convinced teenage boys to send him obscene photographs and videos of themselves. Harris, 21, of Naperville, Illinois, was indicted earlier this month in a seven-count indictment that included the child sex, porn, and other allegations, reports the AP. A complaint filed in September initially charged him with child pornography. In the original complaint, prosecutors said Harris admitted to FBI agents that he asked a teenage boy to send him lewd photographs of himself, but that he requested child pornography from at least 10 to 15 others he knew to be minors via Snapchat.

Two of Harris’ alleged victims, who are teenage brothers, have sued Harris in Texas. Harris entered his not guilty plea to all seven of the counts—which include four counts of sexual exploitation of children—on Dec. 17 during an arraignment hearing held by a telephone, court records seen by ET Online show. Each sexual exploitation charge carries a minimum sentence of 15 years. Harris remains held without bond at a federal detention facility in Chicago. He has been held there since his September arrest. Harris was the breakout star of the Emmy-winning docuseries that follows a cheerleading team from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.

(Read more Jerry Harris stories.)

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