A former campaign surrogate for Joe Biden and Netflix star was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison on Wednesday on multiple charges, including receiving child pornography and soliciting sex from minors.
Jerry Harris, 22, of Naperville, Illinois, will also be required to register as a sex offender for life and pay a $55,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Manish Shah also ordered that his sentence will be followed by eight years of court-supervised release.
Harris was indicted in 2020 on seven counts of receiving and attempting to receive child pornography and persuading minors to engage in sexual activity. The criminal acts occurred between August 2017 and August 2020.
He pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of receiving child pornography and one count of interstate travel with the intention to engage in illegal sexual conduct.
The judge told Harris that he should consider the sentence imposed as an “expression of the seriousness of your crimes, tempered with some hope that all is not lost for you or for your victims, and that in the future some healing can occur.”
The charges against Harris stemmed from claims he coerced teenage boys to send him sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves and that he solicited sex from children at cheerleading competitions.
Federal prosecutors sought a sentence of 15 years and Harris’ attorney asked for a sentence of six years at Wednesday’s hearing.
Harris spoke on his own behalf at the sentencing hearing and apologized to his victims, saying that he was deeply sorry for the trauma he has caused and that he is praying that their “suffering comes to an end.”
Harris starred in the Netflix series “Cheer” which was an immediate success when it was released in January 2020. He became a media sensation because of his encouraging attitude toward cheerleading competitors. He was also later hired by “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to interview celebrities on the red carpet at the Academy Awards.
Before his arrest in September 2020, Harris was one of the celebrity influencers Joe Biden’s campaign engaged with in its effort to “win back the internet.” Biden appeared with Harris on Instagram Live in June 2020 to discuss “important issues facing our country right now, in particular young adults and the black community.”
During the conversation, Biden said voting is “the most powerful non-violent tool we have.”
The video garnered over 300,000 views but was deleted soon after the FBI executed a search warrant at Harris’ home later the same month as the interview.