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'Cheer' star Jerry Harris pleads guilty to child pornography charges

Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Jeremiah "Jerry" Harris, former star of the reality show Cheer, pleaded guilty Thursday in Chicago to federal child pornography charges.

Harris, 22, entered the guilty plea for two of the seven counts he faced -- receiving child pornography and engaging in interstate travel for the purpose of engaging in a sexual act with a minor. The remote plea hearing took place in federal district court in Chicago.

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Harris told Judge Manish Shah that he asked for and received sexually explicit photos and videos of a 17-year-old minor in exchange for $3,000 in 2020. He said he also traveled from Texas to Florida to engage in sexual activity with a 15-year-old.

Harris' lawyers issued a statement saying their client wanted to "take responsibility" for his actions. They also said he himself was sexually abused as a child but had not received help for his prior trauma.

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"There being no safe harbor to discuss his exploitation, Jerry instead masked his trauma and put on the bright face and infectious smile that the world came to know," the lawyers said. "As we now know, Jerry became an offender himself as an older teenager."

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Harris has been in an Illinois jail since September 2020 and faces up to 50 years in prison for the crimes. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for June 28.

Harris appeared in the Netflix series Cheer about the cheerleading program at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas. The second season of the series premiered on the streaming service last month and included an episode dedicated to Harris' arrest.

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The show earned two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Directing for a Reality Program and Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program. It also won Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming at the Television Critics Association Awards.

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