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Jerry Harris of 'Cheer' arrested and charged with producing child pornography

The "Cheer" star has been charged in federal court with one count of producing child pornography and is the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation.
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/ Source: TODAY

Jerry Harris, one of the stars of the Netflix docuseries "Cheer," was arrested on Thursday and charged in federal court in Chicago with one count of producing child pornography.

Harris, 21, was taken into custody at his home in Naperville, Illinois, for allegedly enticing an underage boy to produce sexually explicit videos and photos of himself, according to a news release by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

He contacted the underage boy on social media and repeatedly tried to get him to send sexually explicit videos and photos of himself, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The minor victim informed Harris during their initial online encounter that he was 13 years old, the complaint states.

Harris appeared Thursday in federal court in Chicago. He was ordered held without bail until at least Monday when he is expected to appear in court for a detention hearing. His attorney did not immediately respond to TODAY's request for comment.

His arrest came three days after multiple FBI agents visited his home during an ongoing investigation into allegations that he solicited sexually explicit photos and sex from minors, according to USA Today.

His arrest also comes in the wake of a civil lawsuit filed by the mother of a pair of 14-year-old twin brothers in Texas who accused Harris of soliciting oral sex from one of the brothers at a 2019 cheerleading competition as well as "sexual harassment, exploitation abuse and molestation" of the two boys, who are not named in the filing because they are minors.

Harris came to fame from his appearance on the Emmy-nominated "Cheer," which follows the quest of the cheerleading team at Navarro College in Texas to win a national title.

"Like everyone, we are shocked by this news," a representative for Netflix told TODAY in a statement. "Any abuse of minors is a terrible crime and we respect the legal process."

The Navarro cheer squad said in a statement posted on Twitter that it is "devastated by this shocking, unexpected news."

"Our children must be protected from abuse & exploitation, & we are praying hard for the victims and everyone affected," the team said. Head coach Monica Aldama shared the same statement on her Twitter account.

The twins, Charlie and Sam, spoke with USA Today about anxiety and plummeting grades in school in the wake of the alleged abuse. The brothers, who are being represented by Sarah Klein, an attorney for the firm Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, were identified by the publication using only their first names because they are minors.

Charlie and Sam accuse Jerry Harris of sexual harassment, exploitation abuse and molestation in a civil lawsuit. Their mother identified herself and her sons in an interview with USA Today. Their family lawyer provided this photo to NBC News. Courtesy Sarah Klein

"It was just eating me alive,” Charlie said. “It was just making me so gross and uncomfortable. Every time I saw his name or something like that, I was just cringing about it.”

"The family's feeling a lot of relief today," Klein said on TODAY Friday.

The lawsuit also alleges Harris sent sexually explicit text and social media messages to the boys and requested they send him nude photos of themselves.

"We categorically dispute the claims made against Jerry Harris, which are alleged to have occurred when he was a teenager," a spokesperson for Harris told People in response to the civil suit filed Monday. "We are confident that when the investigation is completed the true facts will be revealed.”

The lawsuit filed in the District Court of Tarrant County in Texas says the twins first met Harris at a cheerleading competition when they were 13 and he was 19 and that he "used his position of authority and power over the Plaintiffs," who were "star struck," according to The New York Times.

Sexually explicit messages, videos and photos from Harris were discovered by the boys' mother on their phones in February, according to the lawsuit. She reported what she found to the Fort Worth Police as well as U.S. All Star Federation, Cheer Athletics and Varsity Spirit, which had either employed Harris or organized competitions in which he was involved as an athlete or coach.

The allegations were also reported to police by Varsity Brands, a dominant company in the cheerleading industry, according to USA Today.

Production of child pornography is punishable by a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.