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‘Cheer’ star Jerry Harris to seek bond in child porn case

Netflix star Jerry Harris will be in a Chicago federal courtroom Monday morning asking to be released on bond on child pornography charges alleging he coerced minors to send him nude photos and videos and solicited sex from boys as young as 13 at cheerleading competitions.

Harris, 21, who rocketed to fame earlier this year as the breakout star of the Netflix docuseries “Cheer,” was charged in a criminal complaint last week with one count of production of child pornography, which carries a minimum of 15 years in prison upon conviction.

At an initial court hearing Thursday, prosecutors told U.S. Magistrate Judge David Weisman they want him held without bond pending trial because he is a danger to the community and is accused of crimes of violence against children.

Harris' lawyer said he intends to argue for his release, in part because Harris has asthma and uses an inhaler and is at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 behind bars.

Harris has been held for the past four days at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago -- a facility that was put on lockdown for months to try to curtail the spread of coronavirus among inmates and staff. Currently, seven inmates at the Loop jail have tested positive for the disease, while another 126 have since recovered from it, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. There have been no COVID-19-related deaths reported at the MCC.

Harris was arrested shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday, three days after the FBI raided his home in an upscale Naperville neighborhood in the 2600 block of Evercrest Court. USA Today was the first to report on the raid and criminal investigation.

The criminal charges appear to be related to a lawsuit filed in Texas last week by two teenagers who accused Harris of “sexual harassment, exploitation, manipulation, intimidation and sexual abuse.” Harris has denied those allegations through a spokesperson.

According to the criminal complaint, Harris first contacted one male victim on Snapchat in December 2018 and, over the next 15 months repeatedly enticed him to produce sexually explicit videos and photographs of himself and send them to Harris. The boy informed Harris during their initial online encounter that he was 13 years old, the complaint stated.

The victim’s parent discovered some of the images on the boy’s cellphone and confronted him, and he said that Harris had also solicited oral sex from him in a bathroom at a cheerleading event they both attended, according to the charges.

The boy told his parent Harris had also sought a second in-person sexual encounter at a different competition, according to the complaint. The parent then called law enforcement.

Harris admitted in an interview with FBI agents last week that he had solicited lewd images and sex from the boy on numerous occasions, according to the complaint.

The complaint stated Harris also admitted to soliciting and receiving child pornography on Snapchat from “at least between 10 to 15 other individuals he knew were minors.”

The U.S. attorney’s office said its investigation is ongoing, and any other potential victims were encouraged to contact the FBI Chicago field office.

Born in Hinsdale and raised in Bolingbrook, Harris rose to fame on the Emmy-winning “Cheer,” which premiered in January. The docuseries follows the competitive cheerleading squad at Navarro College in Texas.

Harris graduated in 2017 from Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, where he was a standout student, and studied at Navarro.

Viewers and celebrities took note of the way he enthusiastically motivated his fellow cheerleaders while they performed stunts, also known as “mat talking.”

He worked the Oscars red carpet in February as a correspondent for Ellen DeGeneres' talk show. He shared a stage with Oprah Winfrey, appeared in a sketch on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and recently got a surprise virtual visit from actress Gabrielle Union, who showered him with praise.

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