Jerry Harris, who previously starred in the Netflix docuseries Cheer, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for child pornography charges.
Harris, 22, was handed the sentence on Wednesday, USA Today reports.
Harris appeared in court for the sentencing where his close friends and family spoke about his integrity and character, per TMZ.
After serving 12 years, Harris will complete eight years of a court-supervised release, Joseph D. Fitzpatrick, assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, told NBC News.
According to the outlet, prosecutors said Harris should get 15 years, alleging that he used “his status as a competitive cheerleader, his social media persona, and eventually his celebrity and money” to convince minor boys to send him sexually inappropriate photos and messages.
Prosecutors claimed Harris was a self-proclaimed “mentor who could be trusted,” and would pay his victims for sexual conduct. If they declined, he “threatened to disseminate the videos they had sent if they refused to continue,” prosecutors alleged according to NBC News.
In their request for Harris to receive a six-year sentence, the reality star’s legal team said he suffered sexual abuse himself when he was underage, which caused him to have a “skewed version of what he understood to be appropriate relationships,” per the outlet.
A lawyer for Harris did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
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In September 2020, the prominent cheerleader and television personality was sued by teenage brothers, who were 13 and “star-struck” when they met him, for allegedly soliciting sex and nude photos from them. The same week, Harris was arrested on suspicion of producing child pornography.
Three months later, in December 2020, a seven-count indictment was unsealed accusing Harris of additional criminal acts that took place in Florida, Illinois and Texas — all involving minors and sexual in nature. He pleaded not guilty to each of the seven charges a week later.
In February, Harris departed from his original plea and pleaded guilty to two out of seven sexual abuse and child pornography charges — receiving child pornography and crossing state lines for the purpose of engaging in an illicit sexual act with a minor under the age of 15.
As part of his plea agreement with prosecutors, the other charges were dropped, The New York Times reported.
Harris’ defense team shared a statement with PEOPLE following his change of plea, claiming that he made the decision to plead guilty “because he wishes to take responsibility for his actions and publicly convey his remorse for the harm he has caused the victims in this case.”
“Jerry is a 22-year-old young man whose story can only be understood through the lens of the extreme poverty, sexual abuse, and neglect of his childhood,” the statement continued. “Jerry was himself exploited, manipulated, and sexually abused as a child within the cheer community in a way that perversely made him believe that this sexual conduct was somehow normal when it was not.”
Harris rose to prominence when Cheer premiered on Netflix at the start of 2020, and his fan base continued to grow when he made headlines for serving as Ellen DeGeneres‘ correspondent at the Oscars and providing encouragement during the COVID-19 lockdowns that followed shortly after.
Only a few months into his newfound stardom, the sex crime allegations halted his career.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.
If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.