The FBI is investigating allegations that celebrity cheerleader Jerry Harris solicited sexually explicit photos and sex from minors, multiple sources told USA TODAY. Agents executed a search warrant Monday afternoon at a home in Naperville, Illinois, as part of that investigation.
“The FBI is conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity in the area,” Siobhan Johnson, FBI special agent and public affairs officer, told USA TODAY. She declined further comment.
Harris, who gained national prominence when he was featured in Netflix’s “Cheer” docuseries, has not been criminally charged. The 21-year-old could not be reached immediately for comment.
The criminal investigation is based on allegations that were reported separately to police by Varsity Brands, a private company that dominates the cheerleading industry and handles everything from uniform sales to major competitions. In Aug. 1 letters to police in Florida and Texas, Varsity’s chief legal officer, Burton Brillhart, said the company learned of “inappropriate sexual conduct” allegations against Harris and reported the information to authorities as required by law.
“As a result of the recent allegation, we have barred this person from having any affiliation with Varsity Brands or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, now and in the future,” he wrote.
Brillhart included two screenshots in his communication with law enforcement. In one — a Snapchat message — a picture of the upper part of what appears to be Harris’ face is labeled with the message, “Would you ever want to ****”. The other screenshot — which is a series of text messages — indicates an exchange that began on May 3, 2019, when an individual named “jerry harris” wrote, “Hey btw I found a place for us to do stuff it’s actually pretty good haha.”
Brillhart’s letters describe Harris as a former employee who was not working for Varsity at the time of the incidents. In May 2019, Harris posted on social media that he was working for the National Cheerleaders Association, a Varsity brand. That summer, he posted photos and videos of himself coaching athletes at NCA camps.
Varsity did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Netflix docuseries follows Texas’ Navarro College cheerleaders in their quest for a national title. “Cheer,” which received six Emmy nominations, was an instant success when it was released in January. Harris became its breakout star, drawing fans for his positive attitude. Throughout the documentary, the Illinois native shouted encouragement from the sidelines at teammates as they practiced difficult skills.
In February, Harris stood on a Dallas stage beside Oprah Winfrey, who handed him her microphone and asked him to pump up the crowd with his signature “mat talk.” The same month, he interviewed celebrities on the red carpet of the Oscars for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” In June, he filmed a short video with former Vice President Joe Biden, encouraging young Black voters to turn out on Election Day. (The video, part of an IG post, has since been removed.)
Harris’ Instagram page, which has 1.2 million followers, features partnerships with Cheerios, Starburst and Walmart.
Read more at usatoday.com