Jerry Harris maintained that he is "not an evil person" as he was sentenced to 12 years behind bars for crimes relating to child abuse images and soliciting sex from minors.

The star of hit Netflix series Cheer apologised to his victims and said he was "still learning who I am" at the hearing at a federal court in Chicago on Wednesday.

Prosecutors had urged the lengthy sentence, saying that Harris' status as a popular celebrity had enabled him to "persuade and entice" his young victims to engage in sexual conduct.

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Judge Manish S Shah told the social media star and cheerleading champion to consider the sentence an "expression of the seriousness of your crimes, tempered with some hope that all is not lost for you or for your victims, and that in the future some healing can occur".

Harris, who has remained in custody at a federal detention facility since his arrest in September 2020, appeared in court for the sentence, which lasted around seven hours.

Addressing his victims before receiving his sentence, he said: "I am deeply sorry for all the trauma my abuse has caused you. I pray deep down that your suffering comes to an end."

He added: "I’m not an evil person. I’m still learning who I am and what my purpose is."

Notable figures listed as authors of character letters used by his defence included other stars of Cheer such as Navarro college head coach Monica Aldama, teammate Morgan Simianer, and the parents of Harris’ fellow cheerleader, Gabi Butler.