Cheer star Jerry Harris has been sentenced to 12 years in prison. Here's what we know.

Warning: This post deals with abuse material and may be triggering for some readers.

Jeremiah "Jerry" Harris, who rose to fame on the 2020 Netflix docuseries Cheer, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to sex crimes earlier this year.

The 22-year-old pleaded guilty in February to two charges, one count of receiving child sexual abuse material and one count of travelling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.

Federal prosecutors asked for Harris to serve 15 years in prison, while his defence requested a six-year sentence.

US District Judge Manish Shah ordered his 12-year sentence be followed by eight years of court-supervised release.

He must register as a sex offender for life.

In court on Wednesday, Harris apologised to his victims and said he is "not an evil person."

"I am deeply sorry for all the trauma my abuse has caused you," he said. "I pray deep down that your suffering comes to an end."

WATCH: The trailer for Cheer on Netflix. Post continues after video.

Video via Netflix.

From a tragic childhood to a 'Black gay icon.'

We first met Harris on the Netflix docuseries Cheer, which took us into the competitive world of US college gymnastics. 

The six-part series, released in January 2020, followed the Navarro College Bulldogs Cheer Team from Corsicana Texas. 

Thanks to his infectious and enthusiastic "mat talk", Jerry quickly became one of the fan favourites from the series. 

Harris' popularity on the series led to endorsement deals as well as a stint interviewing celebrities like Brad Pitt and Billie Eilish on the Academy Awards red carpet for The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

With more than a million followers on Instagram, Jerry won Male Star Of The Year at the Critics Choice Real TV Awards. Cheer also won two of its six Emmy award nominations. 

While his positivity won him fans on Cheer, Harris' backstory also touched hearts - with the show delving into the death of his mother Lizzie Bowman from lung cancer in 2016. 

The parents from Harris' cheer team raised more than $60,000 via a GoFundMe for him at the time so he could remain on the team and further his education. 

Harris, who was 16 when his mother died, moved in with one of the team mums until he graduated high school.

After the show's success, Haris said he was "proud" to be a Black gay icon for young Americans. 


"I want to be someone that’s fearless, that’s confident to others, and that’s confident to themselves and believes in themselves, and just to tell them you can be who you want to be, and you can be who you are, because you are perfect and you are enough for anyone," he told Variety

Inside the allegations. 

The allegations stem from 14-year-old twin brothers, who claim Harris repeatedly harassed them online when they were 13 and he was 19.

One brother also accuses Harris of asking him for sex at two cheerleading competitions.

In their first conversation, the teen says Harris asked how old he was and after learning he was 13, then asked him to send photos of his face and butt.

The twins and their mother spoke to USA TODAY, sharing with the publication screenshots from five text and social media conversations, including several which requested nude photos or sex, photos of Harris naked, and a video of Harris masturbating.

"He would say all the things he wanted to do to me and things like that," one sibling said, explaining that if he didn't comply Harris would threaten to block him on social media.

"I don't like when people are mad with me, so I was trying to please him."

Harris allegedly also asked the other brother for nude photos "two or three times". 

"He said a couple of weird things to me, but it wasn't even nearly to the extent of what happened to [my brother]," he added. 

The messages made the brothers feel "gross and uncomfortable". 

"It was just eating me alive," one brother told USA TODAY. "What everyone is seeing of Jerry Harris, from the outside view, from social media, is a completely different person from when you actually know him." 


He also alleges Harris cornered him in a secluded bathroom at the American Cheerleaders Association’s national competition in Fort Worth in February 2019, and begged him to have sex. He refused but says he was propositioned again three months later. 

The family says they first filed a report to the US All Star Federation (USASF) in May 2020, but the allegations were initially ignored. They later filed a A$1.37 million lawsuit against the Cheer star, Varsity Spirit, USASF and Cheer Athletics. As well as the accusations of sexual misconduct, the lawsuit alleges that cheer organisations failed to protect the boys. 

Harris was arrested by police on September 17, 2020, in his Illinois home, after a search warrant was executed on his property by the FBI three days earlier.

He was charged with one count of producing child sexual abuse images.

Jerry Harris was a breakout star in Netflix's docuseries, Cheer. 


The charge accuses Harris of soliciting images from a minor between December 2018 to March 2020, with court documents reportedly showing Harris admitting to the accusations.

During an interview with law enforcement officials, the BBC reports Harris admitted to soliciting and receiving explicit images from one of the minors and "at least between 10 to 15 other individuals he knew were minors".

He also allegedly admitted to having anal and oral sex with a 15-year-old at a cheer event in 2019.

Federal prosecutors in Chicago alleged that Jerry Harris "exploited and violated" at least 10 boys, labelling him as a "child predator". 

Buzzfeed News aired the allegations following a court filing made in October 2020, which alleged that Harris sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy in an unlocked public bathroom at a public event. Beyond that, the court filing suggested that Harris also offered substantial sums of money (over $1,000USD) to his victims to get them to send sexually explicit material over FaceTime or Snapchat. 


The same filing also claimed that Harris destroyed his phone when he first learnt of the investigation into him, only to use his new 'clean' phone just weeks later to allegedly victimise more young boys. 

Due to this behaviour, the prosecutors behind the filing made the statement that, "Harris either does not care about being caught committing his offences, or simply cannot stop himself". 

The latter half of that statement seemed to influence a claim made later in the filing that says: Harris "exhibits all the signs of a serial child predator". 

“Unless and until he receives significant mental health sex offender treatments, he will remain a danger to any child he encounters, either online or in person.” 

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

Feature image: USA Today/Jim Spellman/Getty.

This article was originally published in 2020, and has been updated in 2021 and 2022.