Cheer star Jerry Harris is being sued by two minors for alleged sexual abuse. The news comes one day after it was reported that Harris, 21, was under federal investigation for supposedly soliciting minors for sex. Harris, through a representative, has denied the allegations.
The lawsuit, which has been viewed by Yahoo Entertainment, alleges that Harris sexually exploited and abused twin brothers beginning at age 13. The boys will turn 15 later this month. Harris “befriended the victims” in 2018 at a national cheerleading competition “both in-person and via social media platforms.” After exchanging phone numbers and social media account names, messages from Harris allegedly “turned sexual in nature.” Harris purportedly demanded “booty pics” and asked the boys “about their relationships and sexual experiences.”
“Harris’s grooming, harassment and molestation of Plaintiffs soon progressed, as Harris exploited the fact that Plaintiffs were openly gay,” the complaint reads. Harris is accused of “sending sexually explicit” messages, including demanding the boys “send nudes.” One of the boys claims he was harassed and molested by Harris in a bathroom at the American Cheerleaders Association’s national competition in February 2019. The alleged victims are also suing United States All Star Federation (USASF), Varsity Spirit and Cheer Athletics.
“This case presents one more sad, and shocking, example of a sexual predator using his fame and position of authority as a coach and mentor to sexually abuse children. USASF and the other defendants failed in their responsibility to protect our clients from his abuse by properly supervising the Harris’s conduct as their employee and agent,” an attorney for the boys said in a statement.
The twin brothers and their mother spoke to USA Today about the alleged abuse. (Yahoo Entertainment is withholding their names as the boys are minors.) The family provided screenshots of some of the purported inappropriate social media messages. In one Snapchat exchange, an account with the name “.jerry harris” responded to a photo of one of the brothers stretching his leg above his head, writing, “Do it naked and take a video and show me.”
One of the alleged victims told USA Today he has been struggling with anxiety. “It was just eating me alive,” the teenager shared. “It was just making me so gross and uncomfortable. Every time I saw his name or something like that, I was just cringing about it.”
According to an attorney for the family, the boys’ mother alerted authorities about Harris after discovering sexually explicit messages. The FBI interviewed the twins on Aug. 28 and again on Sept. 11. Federal agents executed a search warrant at Harris’s home Monday afternoon in Naperville, Ill. as part of the investigation. Harris has not been criminally charged.
In a statement to Variety, a rep for Harris denied the allegations: “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 twins claim that they know of other alleged victims and that Harris’s reputation is widely known in the cheerleading community. They are seeking over $1 million in damages.
Harris was a fan favorite on Cheer, which followed the Navarro College cheerleading squad. The Netflix docuseries is nominated for six Emmy awards. Plans for a second season are unknown.