Netflix Cheer star, Jerry Harris, has been arrested.
According to published reports, the 21-year old star was arrested and taken into custody on Thursday (Sept 17) on one charge of the production of child pornography, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Fitzpatrick, following an FBI investigation into claims that Harris was soliciting minors for sex.
As previously reported, the FBI began investigating Jeremiah “Jerry” Harris, one of the students featured in Netflix’s breakout docuseries “Cheer,” after a complaint was filed on behalf of two 14-year old boys who claimed that Harris had solicited them for sex. According to federal court records, Harris admitted to agents that he solicited and received explicit messages on Snapchat from at least 10 to 15 individuals he knew were minors, had sex with a 15-year-old at a cheerleading competition in 2019, and paid a 17-year-old money in exchange for nude photos.
The criminal complaint against Harris also alleges the boy told his mother that in a bathroom at a cheerleading competition, Harris solicited oral sex from him.
Cheer‘s Monica Aldama-the head coach of the Navarro College cheerleading squad, which Harris was part of and is the subject of the Netflix docuseries— issued a statement on Instagram Friday morning, writing that she is heartbroken over the news.
“My heart is shattered into a million pieces. I am devastated by this shocking, unexpected news,” wrote Aldama, who is currently competing on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.
While Harris’ story is heartbreaking for the children involved, it’s nothing new. As USA Today uncovered in their recent expose, more than 74 sex offenders were able to work in the industry around the children despite the rigorous background checks, because many slip thru the screenings despite having convictions.
USA Today identified nearly 180 individuals affiliated with cheerleading who have faced charges relating to sexual misconduct involving minors but were not banned by the sport’s two governing bodies, USASF and USA Cheer. More than 140 of them — a group that includes coaches, choreographers, and others directly tied to the activity — have been convicted, and 74 are registered sex offenders.
Amy Clark, USASF’s vice president of membership, said her organization has robust child protection policies and “leads the way” on athlete safety.
“I think you would be hard-pressed to find another youth sports organization that has dedicated the time and the effort that we have to these non-sporting resources,” Clark told the publication.
According USASF policy, only requires coaches who go backstage or in the warm-up area at competitions to be members and background checked through their system. And though it mandates gym owners conduct their own screenings and background checks for anyone who interacts with a minor, what businesses do with that information is up to them.