Oprah’s close friend Jerry Harris was sentenced to 12 years in prison on child rape crimes this week by US District Judge Manish Shah.
Harris, star of Oprah Winfrey’s Netflix show “Cheer,” was found guilty of child sex abuse charges after he was caught using his position to lure underage children into being raped.
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Prosecutors warned that Harris used “his status as a competitive cheerleader, his social media persona” to rape unsuspecting child actors.
They added that he “eventually [used] his celebrity and money, to persuade and entice” little kids.
After being released from prison, Harris will have eight additional years of supervised release.
1news.co.nz reports: Before learning his sentence, Harris apologised to his victims, saying, “I am deeply sorry for all the trauma my abuse has caused you. I pray deep down that your suffering comes to an end.”
“I’m not an evil person,” Harris said. “I’m still learning who I am and what my purpose is.”
Harris has been in custody at a federal detention facility.
Sarah Klein, an attorney for two of the victims, issued a statement saying Harris’ guilt was “firmly established.”
“The sentence he received reflects the severity of his crimes and the lifetime of pain his victims will suffer,” Klein said.
Harris was arrested in September 2020 on a charge of production of child pornography. Prosecutors alleged at the time that he solicited videos and images from two 14-year-old brothers.
According to a complaint, federal prosecutors said that Harris admitted to repeatedly asking a minor teen for pornographic videos and images between December 2018 and March 2020.
Then in December of that year, he was indicted on more charges alleging misconduct in Illinois, Florida and Texas. According to the indictment, Harris allegedly solicited sex from minors at cheerleading competitions and convinced teenage boys to send him obscene photographs and videos of themselves.
Harris admitted to FBI agents to asking a teenage boy to send him lewd photographs of himself, and to requesting child pornography on Snapchat from at least 10 to 15 others he knew to be minors, according to the indictment.
Cheer was a huge success when it was released in January 2020 and Harris became wildly popular for his upbeat attitude and his encouraging “mat talk.” Harris even interviewed celebrities on the red carpet at the Academy Awards for The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
The docuseries follows the competitive cheerleading squad from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.