'Cheer' star Jerry Harris faces new child pornography, sex crime charges

CHICAGO (KTRK) -- "Cheer" star Jerry Harris, already facing federal child pornography charges, has been indicted on new charges that allege he solicited sex from minors at cheerleading competitions and convinced teenage boys to send him obscene photographs and videos of themselves.

The new seven-count indictment that was made public on Friday was not unexpected. In the original complaint filed in September, not only did prosecutors allege that Harris admitted to FBI agents to asking a teenage boy to send him lewd photographs of himself, but that he requested on Snapchat child pornography from at least 10 to 15 others he knew to be minors.

Harris, 21, has been held in a federal detention facility without bond since he was arrested on child pornography charges in September, and a judge has subsequently suggested that Harris would pose a public danger if released from custody.

Harris' attorneys have not yet spoken about the new charges, but an arraignment was scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Attorneys for two of Harris' alleged victims, teenage brothers who have sued Harris in Texas, praised authorities on Friday to continue to "locate victims and take action."

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"This was made possible because our clients' mother initially had the courage to report Harris to the FBI and provided evidentiary proof of the manipulation, sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation that her sons had suffered," the statement from attorneys Morgan Stewart and Sarah Klein read.

Harris was the breakout star of the Emmy-winning docuseries that follows the cheerleading team from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, which is about three hours from Houston.

"Cheer" was an instant success when it was released in January, and Harris drew fans for his upbeat attitude and his encouraging "mat talk." Earlier this year, he interviewed celebrities on the red carpet at the Academy Awards for "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

In October, Federal Judge Heather McShain ordered Harris to be held behind bars until his trial because, "He presents a danger to the community."

McShain declined to release Harris on home detention despite several "Cheer" moms offering to supervise him and keep him from accessing the internet.

"I find the defendant's past conduct does suggest the likelihood of future misconduct," McShain said.

Harris sat alongside his attorneys and did not speak Wednesday during his federal detention hearing.

Prosecutors argued Harris is a threat if he's released.

Not only does the prosecution allege Harris sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy at a cheer event in a public bathroom, they also say he admitted violating children to the FBI.

Prosecutors said at least 10 children were harmed.

The feds said Harris allegedly assaulted, harassed, and groomed boys in his cheerleading circle, asking them to provide sexually explicit pictures, and even paying one boy to produce child pornography. Prosecutors said Harris allegedly continued sexual misconduct after learning about the FBI investigation.

The mother of two of the alleged victims was present for the hearing by phone. She implored the judge to keep Harris in custody saying, "For nearly two years my sons have suffered more than I could ever really describe to this court...I'm in awe of the courage they exhibited speaking out."

"Mr. Harris should not be residing in a home and sleeping in a comfortable bed...where my children and his other victims are paying a very high price for telling the truth," she continued.

Four women who knew Harris through cheerleading circles were also present for the October hearing. They testified they would take Harris in if he was released and report to the court if he violated bond protocols.

Harris's defense attorneys argued Harris may not have the mental capacity of an adult and that he comes from a very difficult home life. They said he is not a threat, and if released, would not have access to a cell phone or internet.

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Harris is facing a mandatory minimum 15-year sentence if convicted.
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