Jeremiah “Jerry” Harris, a Naperville man known for his role on Netflix’s cheerleading reality show “Cheer,” has been charged in federal court with producing child pornography after he allegedly enticed underage children to send him sexually explicit photos and videos.
Harris, 21, was arrested Thursday and charged in the Northern District of Illinois with one count of producing child pornography, a crime with a sentence range of 15-30 years.
According to a 28-page federal complaint, the mother of two 14-year-old twin boys – both of whom are competitive cheerleaders who travel to competitions and camps across multiple states – told federal investigators this month that she had found texts between Harris and one of her sons in February.
When confronting her son, he told her that Harris had “constantly requested” photographs and videos from him, though he wouldn’t state the nature of that content, according to the complaint.
When the woman accessed a private folder on her son’s phone, she found a dozen or more sexually explicit photos and video of both the child and Harris, the complaint states.
Harris began contacting that victim online in December 2018 and continued doing so until March 2020, according to the complaint, when the victim stopped speaking to Harris.
The complaint states Harris also attempted to solicit oral sex from the victim – who informed Harris during their first conversation that he was only 13 years old – twice during in-person encounters at cheerleading events they both attended in 2019. The victim said he refused both times.
In a text exchange included in the complaint, Harris, who was 19 years old at the time, sent the victim a message saying “I found a place for us to do stuff it’s actually pretty good haha.”
In August 2020, investigators spoke with that victim’s twin brother, who said Harris was “touchy” and did “odd things” to him and his brother, according to the complaint. This victim also alleged Harris had requested explicit photos or videos, and on one occasion wanted to meet in person, but the boy refused.
In an interview with investigators this week, Harris admitted he had sought explicit photos and videos, not only from these two victims, but also from 10 to 15 other minors, according to the complaint. Harris also allegedly admitted he had engaged in sexual activity with a 15-year-old during a cheer competition in 2019.
Harris gained notoriety from the “Cheer” series, which premiered on Netflix in January and documented the Navarro College cheer team from Corsicana, Texas as they prepared for a national competition.
Prosecutors said the federal investigation into Harris remains ongoing. Anyone who believes they or someone they know was sexually exploited by Harris is encouraged to call the FBI Chicago Field Office at 312-421-6700.