Following news of Cheer star Jerry Harris' arrest, his coach Monica Aldama has spoken out.
The Navarro College Cheer Coach took to Instagram just after midnight on Friday, Sept. 18 with a statement reacting to the news regarding Harris. "My heart is shattered into a million pieces," her social media statement began. "I am devastated by this shocking, unexpected news."
"Our children must be protected from abuse and exploitation," she continued, "and I'm praying hard for the victims and everyone affected. Please respect our privacy as our family mourns during this heartbreaking time."
Before starring as a contestant on the 2020 season of Dancing With the Stars, Aldama rose to fame as the tough coach featured in Netflix's hit docuseries, which chronicled the Navarro College Bulldogs Cheer Team, including team member Harris.
Harris, who became a viral star as a result of his inspiring "mat talk", was arrested on Thursday, Sept. 17, a press release from the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois confirmed. The 21-year-old was charged with one count of producing child pornography for allegedly "enticing an underage boy to produce sexually explicit videos and photos of himself," the press release stated. Per the release, "production of child pornography is punishable by a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years." E! News has reached out to Harris' attorney for comment and has not heard back.
According to an affidavit sworn to by an FBI special agent and filed as part of the criminal complaint, obtained by E! News, Harris admitted in an interview with law enforcement on Sept. 14 to asking an unidentified minor to take photographs and videos of his own private parts and send them to Harris via Snapchat while knowing the minor was 13 years old. Per the affidavit, Harris also admitted during the interview to having Snapchat conversations with the minor from December 2018 through March 2020, in which he repeatedly asked the minor to send naked photos. "Harris admitted to soliciting and receiving child pornography on Snapchat from at least between 10 to 15 other individuals he knew were minors," the affidavit further stated.
"We are grateful that the U.S. Attorney and the FBI have taken swift action to protect children by investigating, arresting and charging Jerry Harris," Morgan Stewart and Sarah Klein of Manly, Stewart & Finaldi told E! News. "This was made possible because our clients' mother had the courage to report Harris to the FBI as well as the Fort Worth Police Department and provided evidentiary proof of the manipulation, sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation that her sons had suffered."
A Netflix spokesperson said in a statement, "Like everyone we are shocked by this news. Any abuse of minors is a terrible crime and we respect the legal process."
News of Harris' arrest came just days after USA Today reported that he was being investigated by the FBI over allegations that he had solicited sexually explicit photos and sex from minors. In response to the report, a spokesperson for Jerry told E! News, "We categorically dispute the claims made against Jerry Harris, which are alleged to have occurred when he was a teenager. We are confident that when the investigation is completed the true facts will be revealed."