Earlier this year, Harris pleaded guilty to two of the seven counts against him, including one count of travelling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a 15-year-old, and convincing a 17-year-old minor to send him sexually explicit photographs in exchange for money. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped the remaining five counts.
Speaking in court yesterday (7 July), 22-year-old Harris apologised to his victims and said he was "not an evil person". Despite that, prosecutors had pushed for a lengthy sentence, arguing that Harris abused his position as a celebrity to "persuade and entice" his young victims.
As he was handed his sentence, Judge Manish S Shah told Harris to consider it as an "expression of the seriousness of your crimes, tempered with some hope that all is not lost for you or for your victims, and that in the future some healing can occur".
Addressing his victims before he was jailed, Harris – who will be 34 years old by the time his sentence is over – said: "I am deeply sorry for all the trauma my abuse has caused you. I pray deep down that your suffering comes to an end."
He went on, "I’m not an evil person. I’m still learning who I am and what my purpose is."
Harris was arrested in September 2020 – on a charge of production of child pornography – just nine months after Cheer, which follows the highs and lows of the Navarro College cheerleading team, premiered on Netflix. At the time, prosecutors alleged that he had solicited sexually explicit photos and videos from two 14-year-old boys.
Two months after his arrest, Harris was indicted on further charges which alleged he had solicited sex from minors at cheerleading competitions, and convinced teenage boys to send him sexually inappropriate photographs and videos of themselves. The Netflix star later admitted to FBI agents that he had requested child pornography from at least 10 to 15 other teenage boys (that he knew to be minors) on the social media platform, Snapchat.
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