In early 2020, the hit Netflix docuseries Cheer brought national attention to Navarro College’s award-winning cheerleading program. As a result, certain members of the elite cheerleading team became instant celebrities. One of these individuals, Jerry Harris, quickly became a fan favorite. However, later that year news broke that twin 14-year-old brothers had sued Harris for sexual abuse, sending shockwaves throughout the cheerleading community. Harris was investigated by the F.B.I. and subsequently charged with possession of child pornography and several other sexual abuse-related crimes. Recently, Harris pleaded guilty to receiving sexual abuse materials and engaging in sexual acts with a minor. Here is more on the charges and case against Jerry Harris.
The Case Against Jerry Harris
Season 2 of the popular Netflix show Cheer was released in January 2022. By then, Charlie and Sam, 14-year-old twin brother cheerleaders, had filed suit alleging that Harris had been sexually inappropriate with and abusive towards them. According to the alleged victims, Harris texted them sexually explicit messages, sent a sexual image of himself over Snapchat, demanded that they send nude photos, and attempted to get one brother to engage in sexual activity with him at a cheerleading competition.
Sam and Charlie were interviewed by Cheer docuseries filmmakers about the abuse and their reasons for coming forward. The brothers told interviewers they were reluctant to report Harris out of fear of upsetting him and being rejected by the cheerleading community. Ultimately, the abuse came to light when the twin’s mother looked into a suspicious communication between the Netflix star and one of the boys. The twins later decided to come forward despite their reservations.
Upon learning of the abuse, Sam and Charlie’s mother, Kristen, claims she reported the incidents to cheerleading authorities. When she received no response, she contacted the F.B.I. According to Kristen, the F.B.I. promptly responded and began looking into the allegations against Harris soon after.
The F.B.I. investigation resulted in Harris allegedly admitting to having exchanged explicit photos over Snapchat with approximately 10-15 minors, paying a 17-year-old for nude photos of themselves, and sexually assaulting a 15-year-old victim at a 2019 cheerleading competition. Harris was charged with these offenses and for sexual exploitation of children, receiving child pornography, traveling with the attempt to engage in sexual conduct with a minor, and enticement.
Harris Pleaded Guilty to Two Charges
Although he initially pleaded not guilty to seven charges, Harris recently entered a guilty plea for one count of receiving child pornography and one count of engaging in sexual acts with a minor. According to a recent report, after sentencing is carried out on the two charges, the federal prosecutor will request that the remaining five charges be dismissed. Harris, now age 22, is being held without bond while awaiting sentencing. Sam and Charlie’s mother, Kristen, commented regarding Harris’s guilty please, stating:
“In an effort to put a stop to a serial predator and avert harm to other children, my sons took the brave step of speaking publicly about the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of Jerry Harris.” She also related that “Harris’ admission of guilt today gives me hope that the pain and grief that my sons have suffered as a result of speaking up has not been in vain. I will continue my mission to hold Jerry Harris and his enablers fully accountable both in the courts of law and the court of public opinion.”
Sam and Charlie’s case has raised concerns within the cheerleading community regarding abuse. Presently, civil suits are pending against Texas-based competitive cheerleading training center Cheer Athletics. The training center was featured in the Cheer docuseries in connection with Harris. Multiple people have filed suit against Cheer Athletics, alleging that they were sexually abused by an instructor while participating in programming.
Victims Should be Able to Hold Their Abusers Accountable
As the Harris case demonstrates, sexual abuse and violence can happen in environments where children and adults should be supported and safe. As we have seen in recent years, there can be a culture of intimidation and silence in competitive sports—especially those involving minors. The consequences of sexual abuse and other sexual violence can last for years, and victims should be able to hold their abusers and the organizations that failed to protect them accountable.
Contact an Experienced Sexual Abuse Injury Attorney
If you’ve been the victim of rape, sexual abuse, or other sexual violence, you want an experienced and compassionate sexual abuse injury attorney on your side. Bonina & Bonina, P.C. understand the importance of helping sexual violence survivors get the help they need for their trauma. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MEDLAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits are available. Se Habla Español.