Four months before he was arrested for child sexual exploitation, cheerleader Jerry Harris dropped his cell phone after a friend told him he might be under investigation, federal prosecutors said. Authorities did not name the person Harris warned, just saying it was someone who owns a gym.
An amended lawsuit filed on Monday alleges the nameless girlfriend is Angela Rogers, co-owner of Cheer Athletics, a well-known cheerleading company whose Wildcats team competed in NBC's "America's Got Talent" earlier this year.
The lawsuit, filed by the family of two Texas brothers who accused Harris of abuse, did not provide evidence to support the claim. However, a schedule the family previously provided to the U.S. TODAY shows that Rogers was one of the few people who knew of the boys' allegations in May – that month, prosecutors said Harris received the warning from his Friend. The boys' mother, Kristen, said she spoke to Rogers about the allegations because Harris was an athlete with Cheer Athletics.
In a statement to the US TODAY, Rogers said, "Cheer Athletics and Angela Rogers categorically deny the allegations made against them. The amended petition contains inaccuracies and is misleading."
Rogers denied some specific allegations made in the lawsuit, including attempts to hide or destroy evidence. She did not specifically deny that she was the one who informed Harris. When USA pressured TODAY Rogers on this point, she reiterated her earlier testimony and generally denied the allegations against her.
Within days of learning of the allegations, Rogers reported them to several law enforcement agencies and the US All Star Federation (USASF), which regulates cheerleading in the competition. This is evident from interviews and recordings that USA received TODAY. Rogers previously said Harris had not been affiliated with Cheer Athletics since March 1.
Harris, 21, is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago while his criminal case is pending. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.
The story goes on
Harris became famous when he was featured in Netflix's "Cheer" documentaries. Prosecutors said Harris last month admitted requesting nude photos or sex of five to ten children, having sex with a 15-year-old boy in the bathroom at a cheerleading contest, and paying minors more than $ 1,000 for explicit photos .
Harris' attorney, Todd Pugh, did not respond to a request for comment.
The FBI began investigating Harris earlier this year after being contacted by Kristen, whose 15-year-old twin sons accused Harris of abuse. The boys, whose reports were first released by the US TODAY in September as part of a wider investigation into cheerleading misconduct, said they had been harassed by Harris for more than a year, starting when they were 13 years old, and in cheer competitions Harris 19th
Cheerleading has banned a list of people: 74 convicted sex offenders were missing
Help USA TODAY Investigate Cheerleading: If you are a parent, athlete, coach, or gym owner, share your story
The family's civil lawsuit, which was amended on Monday, was originally filed against Harris, Cheer Athletics, Varsity and USASF in September, court records show. In it, the Harris family accuses the boys of sexual misconduct and the jubilant organizations of negligence and failure to protect the boys from abuse.
U.S. assistant attorney Christopher Parente said in a court motion filed last week that he had contacted Harris about a possible investigation. Parente did not tell the court the friend's name or why that person "gave Harris a tip". He said Harris told authorities he got rid of his cell phone because he knew it contained evidence of his crimes. The prosecutor said that despite his warning, Harris bought a new phone in May and continued to hunt children.
Rogers and Cheer Athletics continued to publicly support Harris in the months after Rogers learned that Harris was charged with sexual misconduct.
Jerry Harris attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party held by Radhika Jones at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, California on February 9th.
Two weeks after learning of the allegations, Rogers responded to a tweet from Harris encouraging people to vote in the presidential election. "Love that and you!" Rogers tweeted on May 30th.
"I love you so much, Trainer Angela!" Harris replied.
In July, when Cheer was nominated for six Emmy Awards, Cheer Athletics posted a photo of a beaming Harris on their Instagram account titled “Our mood after hearing our friends from @navarro_college_cheer this morning 6 EMMY – received nominations. "
Marisa Kwiatkowski and Tricia L. Nadolny are reporters on the USA TODAY National Investigation Team. Marisa can be reached at [email protected], @IndyMarisaK or by phone, Signal or WhatsApp at (317) 207-2855. Tricia can be reached at [email protected] or @TriciaNadolny.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Jerry Harris of "Cheer" warned by the owner of the "AGT" team, says suit