Last year, a high-profile lawsuit was filed by two underage cheerleaders who had been sexually harassed and abused by Jerry Harris, who was featured in the Netflix show Cheer. This lawsuit was secretly settled in the fall of 2020. In addition to Harris, Bain Capital-owned Varsity Spirit and the U.S. All Star Federation were named as co-defendants in the suit brought by the Texas-based twins, publicly identified as Sam and Charlie. The lawsuit paved the way for a subsequent string of federal cheerleading sex abuse suits filed in seven states on behalf of 21 accusers, each of whom named Varsity and the USASF as co-defendants along with their alleged abusers.
Details of the settlement agreement remain under seal, after the parties agreed in March 2021 to a broad protective order because the case related to claims about sexual abuse of minors. The twins’ attorney, Sarah Klein, confirmed that her clients “resolved the dispute with all parties, upon mutual agreement,” but declined to comment further.
Varsity said it would not comment on the settlement so as to abide by the sealing order meant “to safeguard the privacy of the minor victims.” However, the case’s confidentiality may have also benefitted Varsity and the USASF, which haven’t had to deal with the public knowing how much they paid to steer clear of a jury trial. That information would presumably be of significant interest to current or future cheer sex-abuse plaintiffs seeking damages from the beleaguered company or its affiliated cheerleading nonprofits.
In the original petition of their lawsuit, Charlie and Sam, referred to as John HC Doe and John HS Doe, and their mother Kristen stipulated that they were seeking monetary relief of at least $1 million. The family first went public with their allegations against Harris to USA Today, which reported on Sep. 14, 2020, that the gregarious Cheer standout was under FBI investigation for soliciting sex from minors.
Kristen reported the matter to both the USASF and Varsity in early 2020, and later the Fort Worth Police Department. Believing that Harris was still being given a “green light” by Varsity and the USASF, she contacted the FBI that August. The USASF suspended Harris on the day the USA Today story ran, according to the paper.
Harris was arrested on September 17, 2020, and three months later pled guilty to charges of child pornography and transporting a minor with the intent for illicit sexual conduct. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison to be followed by eight years of supervised release.
Last January, a month after Harris’s sentencing, the twins appeared in an episode of the second season of Cheer to describe their ordeal. This January, they launched a podcast called Sam and Charlie Won’t Shut Up. Though it was supposed to be a weekly series, only three episodes have been released so far.