Netflix ‘Cheer’ Star Jerry Harris Sentenced To 12 Years For Sex Crimes


A federal judge in Chicago sentenced Jerry Harris – star of the 2020 Netflix documentary series “Cheer” – to 12 years in prison on Wednesday after the 22-year-old cheerleader pleaded guilty to two to seven charges of sex crimes with a minor.

Key Facts

Harris apologized to the underage people he sexually abused at the sentencing, saying, “I’m not an evil person,” and that he was “still learning who I am.”

Harris, who came into the public spotlight for his role in the 2020 Netflix documentary series “Cheer,” was also sentenced to eight years of supervised release after prison.

The cheerleading and social media star pleaded guilty to traveling to Florida to engage in sexual conduct with a 15-year-old, and persuading a 17-year-old to send him explicit photos for money – two of the 10 to 15 children in three states he admitted to asking for sexual photos, in 2018 and 2019, when Harris was 19.

Judge Manish S. Shaw told Harris the sentence was a reflection of the “seriousness of your crimes,” and that he has “some hope that all is not lost for you or for your victims.”

Harris’ attorney, Todd Pugh, released a statement, saying the “Cheer” star’s story “can only be understood through the lens of the extreme poverty, sexual abuse, and neglect of his childhood.”

Forbes has reached out to Pugh for comment.

Crucial Quote

“The criminal conduct in this case also took place in the context of a competitive cheer community where inappropriately sexualizing and sexually abusing children was far too common and too often overlooked,” Pugh wrote in a statement following the sentencing. “Jerry was himself exploited, manipulated and sexually abused as a child within the cheer community in a way that perversely made him believe that this sexual conduct was somehow normal when it was not.”

Key Background

Harris was facing up to 50 years in prison on Wednesday, however Harris’ attorneys argued for a six-years sentence and federal prosecutors asked for 15 years, partly as a message that his history of sexual assault is “not a blank check commit sex offenses against minors.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelley Guzman argued he “used his celebrity and wealth to continue his exploitation of children.” Allegations of sexual abuse came to light shortly before September 2020, when Harris was arrested at his home in Illinois for allegedly soliciting child pornography and sex from underage boys. His cheerleading coach, Monica Aldama, said she was shocked by the news, and that “our children must be protected from abuse and exploitation.” Gabi Butler, who also starred in “Cheer,” tweeted she was never aware of the accusations, writing she was “shocked, dismayed and deeply saddened.” Harris reached an agreement with prosecutors in February 2022, to plead guilty to two of the seven counts, in exchange for prosecutors asking for the remaining counts to be dropped. The agreement came seven months after Harris initially pleaded not guilty to the seven charges brought against him, including sexual exploitation, receiving and attempting to receive child pornography, crossing state borders to engage in sexual conduct with a minor and enticement.

Further Reading

Jerry Harris Sentenced to 12 Years for Sex Crimes Involving Minors (New York Times)

Jerry Harris: Star of Netflix’s Cheer sentenced to 12 years (BBC)

Former ’Cheer’ Star Jerry Harris Pleads Guilty In Child Sex Crimes Case (Forbes)