CHICAGO (CBS) — “Cheer” was a feel-good show about college cheerleading, but accusations of child sexual abuse against breakout star Jerry Harris of Naperville changed how viewers looked at the show.
The Netflix show’s second season just dropped Wednesday. In it, you will hear from two of Harris’ accusers and their mother – who spoke with CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra.READ MORE: Chicago First Alert Weather: Clearing Skies, Wind Chills Bring Sub-Zero Feels-Like Temps
“Cheer” was a juggernaut in its first season. Upon its return, the dark and dangerous cloud that hangs over the show has been addressed.
In 2020, breakout star Harris was indicted on charges of child pornography and soliciting minors for sex. The investigation led to a search of his Illinois home – sparked by a Texas mother named Kristen, whose sons are two of his alleged victims.
“This was not just a handful of times that this happened,” Kristen said. “He was an incredibly persistent predator that forced himself into the center of my son’s lives for over a year.”
In Episode 5, titled “Jerry,” her boys lay out the abuse that they say came through messaging.
“I told him that I was 13, and then after that – right off the bat – he asked me, ‘Can I have butt pics?’ or ‘Can you send butt pics?’” one of the boys says.
Those complaints were at the center of federal prosecutors’ initial case against Harris.
According to those charges, Harris contacted the twin underage boys on social media apps, and repeatedly asked them to produce sexually explicit videos and photographs of themselves and send them to Harris. One of the boys agreed to send Harris naked pictures and videos of himself, but the other declined.
The boy who did send the images informed Harris during their initial online encounter that he was 13 years old, a federal complaint states.
Federal agents were tipped off by the mother of the victims, who found pornographic images and text messages with Harris on one of their phones. The boy told the mom that Harris had asked for the photos. The boy said he had sent more than a dozen photos of his genitals to Harris, and Harris had sent similar images of himself to the boy, the complaint alleges.
Court documents showed a text exchange where prosecutors said Harris messaged the boy and asked for photos, including “booty” pics.
Prosecutors also showed a young boy doing a cheerleading position know as “the needle.” They said a Snapchat account using Harris’ name asked the child to do it naked and take a video to show him.READ MORE: Neighbors Help Each Other Dig Out, Plows Get To Work On Side Streets After Lake Effect Snowstorm
In an interview with investigators, Harris admitted asking for the photos via Snapchat between December 2018 and March 2020, the complaint states. The child is a competitive cheerleader who also met Harris at a cheer event, where Harris asked for oral sex, according the complaint. The boy refused.
The charges also accuse Harris of sending text messages to both boys, soliciting them for sex, but the boys declined.
Since then, four more alleged victims were added – and more charges, stemming from Naperville, Texas, and Orlando.
Investigators said Harris admitted asking for and receiving explicit images from 10 to 14 kids he knew were minors – well after he himself was 18.
“It also is finally an opportunity for them to speak from a platform that their peers will see and tell their story,” mother Kristen said.
Attorney Sarah Klein represents the family in their civil case.
“There’s much more to this story,” Klein said.
The civil case also focuses on what they call the lack of response from the cheerleading community when Kristen first reported the abuse.
“You would think in a culture of ‘me too,’ all she would have had to do was raise her hand once,” Klein said. “She did not.”
They hope the added attention from “Cheer” season two keeps the pressure on.
“We just want to make sure that people don’t look away from this issue before the changes that need to happen, happen,” Kristen said.MORE NEWS: A Disappointment May Be Coming For St. Patrick's Day: Corned Beef Prices Are Shooting Up, Some Local Butchers Aren't Even Carrying It
We reached out to Harris’ attorney for comment but did not hear back. He’s now 22 and remains behind bars in federal custody awaiting his trial in Chicago.