Inside USA TODAY’s cheerleading investigation


Cheerleader Jerry Harris is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday for pressuring young boys to send him nude photos and videos and soliciting sex from minors, a stunning fall for the former star who captivated fans when he appeared in the Netflix docuseries “Cheer.”

Prosecutors have asked a judge to sentence 22-year-old Harris to 15 years in prison, writing in a sentencing memorandum that he used his celebrity status, social media persona and money to prey on “young, adolescent, vulnerable boys.” Harris’ attorneys are seeking a six-year sentence and asked the judge to take into consideration Harris’ difficult childhood and the sexual assault he suffered as a young athlete in the world of competitive cheerleading.

►The Backstory: ‘Cheer’ deals with Jerry Harris’ arrest, but it was USA TODAY reporters who exposed the sport’s problem. Here’s how.

Harris pleaded guilty in February to one count of receiving child pornography and one count of traveling with the intent to engage in a sex act with a minor.

USA TODAY in September 2020 reported that Harris was under federal investigation. That article was part of a broader investigation by the news organization into pervasive youth protection failures in competitive cheerleading, including how the sport’s governing body, the U.S. All Star Federation, delayed investigations and failed to prevent those accused or convicted of misconduct from working with young athletes.

Read USA TODAY’s investigation below, including the initial article about Harris, in which twin brothers described a pattern of harassment by Harris that started when they were 13 years old.

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