Jerry Harris' Spokesperson Refutes Claims He Was Soliciting Minors
Cheer star Jerry Harris is under investigation by the FBI for allegedly soliciting sexually explicit photos and sex from minors, USA Today reports.
FBI agents conducted court-authorized law enforcement activity on Monday afternoon at a home in Naperville, Illinois, Siobhan Johnson, FBI Special Agent and Public Affairs Officer, confirms to ET, though she is unable to confirm the investigation, per FBI policy. According to USA Today, the FBI executed a search warrant in connection with the investigation into Harris. He has not been criminally charged.
A spokesperson for Harris tells ET that the Netflix star disputes any claims against him.
“We categorically dispute the claims made against Jerry Harris, which are alleged to have occurred when he was a teenager. We are confident that when the investigation is completed the true facts will be revealed,” the statement reads.
The investigation stems from allegations reported to police by Varsity, a company (also featured in Netflix’s Cheer) that dominates the cheerleading industry through everything from sponsoring major competitions to uniform sales. In Aug. 1 letters to police in Florida and Texas, Varsity’s chief legal officer, Burton Brillhart, said the company had learned of “inappropriate sexual conduct” allegations against Harris and was reporting the information to authorities as required by law, USA Today reports.
Brillhart — who sent law enforcement two screenshots of Snapchat and text conversations allegedly involving Harris — said Varsity has barred Harris, a former employee, from having any affiliation with the company. Harris posted on social media last May that he was working for the National Cheerleaders Association, a Varsity brand.
In a press release on Tuesday, the attorneys for two alleged victims of child sexual exploitation and abuse by Harris announced that they were filing a lawsuit against the Netflix star as well as the United States All Star Federation (“USASF”), Varsity Spirit, LLC, and Cheer Athletics. The lawsuit alleges sexual exploitation and abuse by Harris beginning when the plaintiffs, who are twin brothers, were 13 years old.
The complaint alleges that Harris was responsible for the mentoring, training, conditioning, technique, encouragement, and development of minor children, including the plaintiffs, who were being groomed for success at the elite levels of all-star cheerleading. According to the complaint, Harris befriended the victims during these national competitions both in-person and via social media platforms, and allegedly began grooming the victims by texting and friending them on various social media platforms. According to the complaint, he began sending sexually explicit messages to the plaintiffs when they were 13.
The complaint further alleges that in February of 2019, while at the ACA Nationals competition at the Fort Worth Convention Center, Harris told one of the plaintiffs to follow him to a secluded bathroom away from the other participants and asked him to perform a sexual act.
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs’ mother discovered various messages on her sons’ cell phones and social media, including some of the alleged sexually explicit messages, images and videos, in February.
One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, John Manly, said in a statement, “Varsity Spirit is trying to mislead the public by implying that they were the ones who took the initiative to report Harris to law enforcement. In fact, our clients’ mother took action to report Harris to USASF, Varsity Spirit and Cheer Athletics, including providing evidentiary proof of the manipulation, sexual harassment, and exploitation that her sons had suffered. She also took action to report Harris to law enforcement, including reporting Harris to Fort Worth Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
In a statement to ET on Tuesday, Vice President of Marketing & Communication for Varsity Spirit, Jackie Kennedy, said the company was continuing to work with authorities.
“We can’t comment on an active law enforcement investigation; we continue to cooperate with authorities in their inquiries on this matter,” the statement reads.
Harris has gained notoriety and over 1 million Instagram followers since he and his fellow Navarro College cheerleaders were featured on Cheer. The Netflix docuseries received six Emmy nominations.
Netflix does not have a comment at this time.
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