Three people associated with the Netflix docuseries “Cheer” have been arrested for alleged sexual misconduct involving minors.
“Cheer,” an Emmy-winning Netflix original documentary series, follows the members of the Navarro College competitive cheer squad while they train to compete for the title at the junior college national championship.
In September 2020, Jeremiah “Jerry” Harris, one of the show’s stars, was accused in a lawsuit of “child exploitation and abuse” of twin brothers, age 13 at the time of the alleged abuse.
Jeremiah "Jerry" Harris, one of the students featured in Netflix's breakout docuseries "Cheer," is being accused of child sexual exploitation and abuse, according to a lawsuit filed this week by attorneys representing two alleged victims. https://t.co/lFRn3rwYbP
— CNN (@CNN) September 16, 2020
The lawsuit alleged that Harris:
“exploited his popularity and position of fame with young male cheer athletes… leading up to, during, and following the distribution of the ‘Cheer’ docuseries.”
It further alleged that Harris exchanged sexually explicit photos with the minors, and:
“Harris’ messages were not limited to electronic harassment and abuse.
“Harris often attempted to make Plaintiffs meet Harris in secluded locations at various competitions, soliciting sexual conduct with these boys.”
Approximately one week after this lawsuit was filed, Harris was arrested for “enticing an underage boy to produce sexually explicit videos and photos of himself.”
He was charged with one count of producing child pornography, and in October a judge denied him bond.
In December, 2020, Harris was indicted on seven counts in U.S. District Court in Illinois. New charges at that time alleged that he not only solicited photos from minor boys, but also solicited sex from minors while at cheerleading competitions.
— Lynn Shaw (@LynnShawProd) December 12, 2020
A spokesperson for Harris stated that Harris and his associates “categorically dispute[d]” the claims. Harris is presently awaiting trial.
The sexually-related arrests have not stopped there.
Recently, two more men associated with the show have made headlines for their arrests for sexual offenses.
Mitchell Ryan, 23, was a Navarro College cheer team member on the show.
He was arrested in Texas on Wednesday, February 3, 2021, and charged with “felony aggravated sexual assault of a child.” This assault allegedly occurred on June 24, 2020.
Ryan’s attorney, Jeremy Rosenthal, told USA Today:
“This has been a nightmare for Mitch and his family.”
“We look forward to Dallas County hearing the truth and this case being over.”
Rosenthal did not comment further on the case.
His client was released from jail Friday, February 5, after posting bond.
Two cheerleaders linked to the Netflix docuseries "Cheer" were arrested this week in separate cases relating to alleged sexual misconduct involving minors — the latest arrests connected to a show already tainted by allegations against star Jerry Harris. https://t.co/RbrsfmAQF8
— Marisa Kwiatkowski (@byMarisaK) February 5, 2021
Ryan was also suspended after his arrest by the U.S. All Star Federation (USASF), the governing body of competitive cheerleading.
However, according to USA Today, the timing of this suspension was representative of “pervasive failures” the federation has toward allegations of cheerleaders’ sexual misconduct with minors. The publication asserts that the USASF had known about the allegations against Ryan since October 2020.
Another man featured on “Cheer” was also arrested February 3 on unrelated charges.
Robert Joseph Scianna Jr., age 25, was arrested and charged with “taking indecent liberties with a child and use of an electronic communication device to solicit sex.”
Scianna is a celebrity cheerleader who was featured on one episode of “Cheer.”
According to Sergeant Winfred Lewis of the Chesterfield County Police Department in Virginia, Scianna messaged someone he thought to be a 14-year-old boy and arranged to meet the boy in real life. He was arrested before the meeting.
Also according to Lewis, this particular meeting was not connected to cheerleading.
Lewis did state, however, that:
“[Scianna] likely has a lot of possible contact with juveniles, with underage kids.”
Indeed, per his website, Scianna has coached 310 cheer camps and choreographed 140 cheer routines. He is pictured on the site instructing minors at camps and coaching sessions.
Sergeant Lewis indicated that the investigation is continuing, saying:
“Hopefully if there are any more victims out there that for whatever reason, maybe because of his stature, didn’t want to come forward, that they reach out to the police department so we can investigate further.”
Presently, Scianna is being held without bond in the Chesterfield County Jail.
Two male cheerleaders featured on the show “Cheer” on Netflix were arrested this week, reports USA Today, facing accusations of sexual misconduct involving minors. This is in addition to the show’s breakout star Jerry Harris, who was arrested last fall. https://t.co/mfDgKaD5L7
— Denver7 News (@DenverChannel) February 5, 2021
Like Ryan, Scianna has also been suspended by the USASF.
As for Netflix, the video streaming giant did not comment on these two most recent arrests.
According to USA Today, Netflix referred back to its original statement after Harris’ arrest, which read:
“Like everyone we are shocked by this news.
“Any abuse of minors is a terrible crime and we respect the legal process.”
At this writing, the show “Cheer” is still streaming on the Netflix platform.
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In 2020, Netflix came under fire for sexualization of young girls in its movie “Cuties.”
Here is our previous report on that:
TYLER COUNTY, TX- A Texas jury has indicted Netflix for promoting a film containing “lewd” material of children. The movie “Cuties” has garnered widespread backlash for including explicit clips of young girls dancing.
The French film initially came to the streaming service on September 9th and quickly received negative reviews. Sen. Ted Cruz is a member of the opposition and has called the film “sexual exploitation.”
In a letter to the US Attorney General Sen. Cruz claimed that the movie “sexualizes” minors:
“The video streaming service and content-producer Netflix is currently hosting a film entitled “Cuties” that sexualizes young girls, including through dance scenes that simulate sexual activities and a scene exposing a minor’s bare breast.”
Cruz went on to call for an investigation into Netflix and its executives for the distribution of child pornography:
“Although the First Amendment provides vigorous protection for artistic expression, it does not allow individuals or for-profit corporations to produce or distribute child pornography.”
Cruz was not alone in the crusade to hold Netflix accountable, and now a Texas grand jury is doing just that.
We all have a duty to protect the children under our care. When adults fail in that duty, young lives are harmed, predators are emboldened, and society itself is coarsened as a consequence.
No “art” or “social commentary” can justify such a moral outrage.https://t.co/8Pio3M0vO3
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) September 15, 2020
.@netflix child porn "Cuties" will certainly whet the appetite of pedophiles & help fuel the child sex trafficking trade. 1 in 4 victims of trafficking are children. It happened to my friend's 13 year old daughter. Netflix, you are now complicit. #CancelNetflix pic.twitter.com/GI8KFH7LFq
— Tulsi Gabbard 🌺 (@TulsiGabbard) September 12, 2020
The indictment came on September 23 and was released to the public by Texas State Rep. Matt Schaefer who said:
“Netflix, Inc. indicted by grand jury in Tyler Co., Tx for promoting material in Cuties film which depicts lewd exhibition of pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 yrs of age which appeals to the prurient interest in sex.”
Netflix, Inc. indicted by grand jury in Tyler Co., Tx for promoting material in Cuties film which depicts lewd exhibition of pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 yrs of age which appeals to the prurient interest in sex #Cuties #txlege pic.twitter.com/UJ1hY8XJ2l
— Matt Schaefer (@RepMattSchaefer) October 6, 2020
The indictment alleges that the media corporation did:
“knowingly promote visual material which depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 years of age at the time the visual material was created, which appeals to the prurient interest in sex, and has no serious, literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
The court document also alleges that employees of the company acted recklessly in their inclusion of the movie:
“The promotion of said film was authorized or recklessly tolerated by a high managerial agent of Netflix.”
Previously, Netflix has retracted and apologized for posts related to the film after using “inappropriate artwork” to promote it:
“We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties. It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description.”
We're deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties. It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description.
— Netflix (@netflix) August 20, 2020
But this time the streaming service is standing by the explicit content. In a statement to TMZ a Netflix Spokesperson argued that the movie is a “social commentary” rather than exploitation:
“’Cuties’ is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. This charge is without merit and we stand by the film.”
The stakes for the lawsuit are difficult to determine. Should Netflix be found guilty of the felony charges the company could face up to a mere $20,000 in fines. However, if the court concludes that Netflix profited from the movie they could be forced to pay fines up to twice the amount they earned.
A grand jury in Tyler County, population 21,000 in East Texas, indicted Netflix over promotion of the movie "Cuties."
The district attorney is the son of U.S. @RepBrianBabin, an outspoke opponent of the film. https://t.co/ZrSWPt3jFj
— Texas Tribune (@TexasTribune) October 6, 2020
This case is unusual and in some ways unprecedented. If Netflix is found guilty of the charges it would set a large precedent for streaming services and movie production companies.
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