the law

Jerry Harris Allegedly Victimized ‘at Least 5 to 10 Children’

Photo: Jim Spellman/Getty Images

Cheer’s Jerry Harris admitted that he “victimized at least 5 to 10 children” who “are all forever damaged by his criminal conduct,” Chicago federal prosecutors alleged Tuesday in court papers. The claims about Harris’s alleged admissions are part of prosecutors’ ongoing efforts to keep him detained pending trial, following his September 17 arrest on one count of producing child pornography.

Prosecutors and Harris’s lawyers participated in a court hearing Wednesday afternoon to argue over Harris’s release, addressing points they made in their recent court filings. The judge presiding over Harris’s case, Heather McShain, did not immediately issue a ruling.

In their new written arguments, prosecutors also alleged that “Harris himself admitted in his interview that every time he encountered a child online … Harris sought to meet them in person for a hands on sexual offense.”

“Harris was often unsuccessful in his attempts, but the persistence shows the danger Harris faces to any child he can reach over the internet,” they said. “Harris exhibits all the signs of a serial child predator and unless and until he receives significant mental health sex offender treatment, he will remain a danger to any child he encounters, either online or in person.”

The Feds arrested Harris several days after two twin boys — named by USA Today as Charlie and Sam — went public with allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Lawyers for the twins previously confirmed to Vulture that Harris’s arrest related to Charlie and Sam’s allegations.

Harris allegedly contacted one of these boys via social media and “repeatedly enticed him to produce sexually explicit videos and photographs of himself and send them” to him, authorities said the day of Harris’s arrest. Prosecutors claimed Harris contacted this boy in December 2018 and that they continued communicating until March 2020. The criminal complaint from September refers to this boy, one of the two brothers who spoke with USA Today, as “Minor 1.”

This minor told Harris that he was 13, authorities said. Following his arrest, Harris also allegedly “admitted to sending Minor 1 photographs of [his] penis over the Snapchat application,” and “admitted to attempting to entice Minor 1 to perform oral sex on Harris in a bathroom at a Texas cheerleading event.”

Harris, who is now 21, would have been around 19 to 20 years old during the alleged misconduct detailed in last month’s criminal complaint.

Federal prosecutors also revealed in their new argument that authorities had recently interviewed “another victim who was sexually assaulted by Harris, inside a public bathroom …”

“This child was only 15 years old when Harris followed him into the bathroom and sodomized the boy,” they said in the new court filings.

Authorities previously said in their September criminal complaint that Harris had admitted to “soliciting and receiving child pornography on Snapchat from at least between 10 to 15 other individuals he knew were minors” and “admitted to engaging in anal and oral sex with a 15 year old minor at a cheer event in 2019.”

Harris’s lawyers pushed for his release in court papers Wednesday, saying his “longtime guardian and maternal figure, as well as other parents from the ‘cheer community’ were willing to serve as [his] third-party custodians.” In other words, there are people in Harris’s circle willing to keep an eye on him.

Harris’s lawyers also appeared to question the significance of an age gap between Harris and his accusers, writing, “It is important to recognize, however, that Mr. Harris had barely reached the age of majority when the purported criminal conduct occurred.”

“In the ‘cheer’ world, coaches create teams with children of all different ages, largely depending on the child’s skill and ability to execute various tumbling stunts. When creating these teams, coaches encourage team members to bond and establish relationships with teammates outside of practice. This type of team building not only establishes lasting friendships, but also mutual trust among teammates,” they wrote, also saying that “when younger children are placed onto teams with older children, they are inherently exposed to the older children’s communications, relationships, and oftentimes, sexual experiences.”

“At the time of the purported offense conduct described in the Criminal Complaint, Mr. Harris was in most respects a child himself interacting with other children,” they also said.

In their bid for release pending trial, Harris’s lawyers said he had asthma, arguing this “places him at grave health risk if he was to contract the COVID-19 novel coronavirus” in jail.

During the hearing with Judge McShain, prosecutor Christopher Parente slammed the notion that “the cheer world has some sort of excuse because there’s … a mix between 13-year-olds and 19-year-olds.”

“I want to be clear we’re not talking about an 18-year-old adult taking a 17-year-old minor to a movie,” Parente said.

At the bail proceeding, Charlie and Sam’s mother implored McShain not to release Harris.

“Since they came forward, my sons have been subjection to vicious, vicious attacks and brutal scrutiny and judgment and criticism — they’ve been accused of being sluts and being liars and being motivated by trying to rob Mr. Harris of his success,” she said, later telling McShain, “There have been weeks where they’ve hardly been able to eat without vomiting.”

“Since the arrest, the attacks on my boys they haven’t stopped, but they have become a little less venomous,” she said. Other accusers have been in touch with her sons privately. Her sons have now gradually leaving their rooms and going to school.

“If Mr. Harris is released, I really, really fear that the small amount of ground that my sons have gained is going to be lost,” she said.

Harris’s lawyer, Todd S. Pugh, contended that these boys would be nowhere near where Harris would be on home detention if he were released.

“There is zero danger to minors 1 and 2,” Pugh said.

Harris’s proposal for home detention, with GPS monitoring so officials can keep track of his location, provide strong assurance that he’ll return to court. If released, Harris also wouldn’t have access to the internet, texting, or a cell phone. Harris is also offering his townhouse as collateral for a bond, Pugh said.

Update, October 16: Judge McShain decided Friday that Harris would remain in jail until trial, according to reports and lawyers for two of his accusers. Per the Chicago Tribune, McShain said Harris’s alleged crimes are “extremely serious” when issuing her decision. “On behalf of our clients and the other victims of Jerry Harris, we thank the Court for keeping Mr. Harris in custody. This ruling will not only ensure the protection of other children and the community, but it sends the message that the allegations made by our clients and Mr. Harris’s other victims are being taken very seriously,” said Sarah Klein, who reps Charlie and Sam. “It sends the message that, by coming forward, our clients’ and other victims’ trust in law enforcement and legal systems was well placed. And this ruling makes absolutely certain that Mr. Harris CANNOT hurt any other children while he awaits trial.”

This story has been updated throughout.

Jerry Harris Allegedly Victimized ‘5 to 10 Children’