Marshall said that as a "victim of sexual abuse as a child," he had knowledge of the "pain of experiencing" the type of abuse that Harris has been accused of committing

By Tim McGovern
September 18, 2020 11:17 PM
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Credit: Manny Carabel/Getty Images

Jerry Harris' former Cheer teammates are speaking out after his arrest on a federal charge for allegedly producing child pornography.

Both Gabi Butler and La'Darius Marshall have broken their silence by releasing statements on their respective Instagram accounts Friday.

A spokesperson for Harris previously told PEOPLE, "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."

Speaking out on Twitter, Marshall said as a "victim of sexual abuse as a child," he knows "all too well the pain of experiencing this type of abuse and the difficulties it can create for life after such trauma."

"I feel as though I have had the wind knocked out of me," Marshall, 22, wrote. "How could this happen? The pain of watching the recent events surrounding my friend and former teammate Jerry Harris has been gut-wrenching."

"My heart goes out to all who may be affected by this behavior from adults," he added. "It is wrong and should never happen to a child."

Marshall said he was "broken to pieces" over the allegations concerning Harris and said that approaching "a child in a sexual way" only "ruins lives and damages everyone around you."

"This will not be acceptable behavior now or later in the future, we must do better," he finished his statement. "We must protect our children. I pray for healing for everyone involved."

Butler, 22, said she was "shocked, dismayed and deeply saddened by the recent news" surrounding Harris, 21.

Saying that she had "gone back and forth between sobbing uncontrollably and trying to wrapping my head around why something like this could happen," she said that she was" never aware of anything like what" Harris "has been accused of taking place."

"I believe the protection of children is more important than ever in today's world and absolutely do not condone any actions that bring harm to a child," she finished her statement. "Issuing a staple statement like this hurts my heart more than any of you will ever know. As a Christian woman, the only thing I know to do is pray for all involved and for the world we live in, my heart is broken."

In addition to Butler and Marshall, Cheer's Monica Aldama — the head coach of the Navarro College cheerleading squad, which Harris was part of and is the subject of the Netflix docuseries Cheer — also issued a statement on Instagram.

"My heart is shattered into a million pieces. I am devastated by this shocking, unexpected news," wrote Aldama, who is currently competing on Dancing with the Stars, on Friday morning.

"Our children must be protected from abuse and exploitation, and I'm praying hard for the victims and everyone affected," the coach, 47, added. "Please respect our privacy as our family mourns during this heartbreaking time."

A Netflix spokesperson told PEOPLE on Thursday: "Like everyone we are shocked by this news. Any abuse of minors is a terrible crime and we respect the legal process."

Harris was formally charged in Chicago Thursday, a statement from federal officials confirmed, alleging that he was arrested for "allegedly enticing an underage boy to produce sexually explicit videos and photos of himself."

Harris, the statement alleges, "contacted the underage boy on a social media application and repeatedly enticed him to produce sexually explicit videos and photographs of himself and send them to Harris, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The minor victim informed Harris during their initial online encounter that he was 13."

The criminal complaint against Harris also alleges the boy told his mother that in a bathroom at a cheerleading competition, Harris solicited oral sex from him.

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In addition, the criminal complaint  accuses Harris of admitting to FBI agents of soliciting and receiving child pornography on Snapchat from “at least between 10 to 15 other individuals he knew were minors.” The FBI conducted a raid on Harris' home earlier this week.

The news came just days after two underage twin brothers filed a lawsuit against Harris for allegedly sexually abusing them and demanding nude photographs from them. Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, the firm representing the twins in a civil suit, confirmed in a statement that the alleged victim in the criminal accusation is one of the twins.

The suit, filed Monday in Texas and obtained by PEOPLE, states the plaintiffs are both competitive cheerleaders who first met Harris in 2018 when they were 13. The suit alleges he leveraged his prominence in the cheerleading community to groom the two for abuse.

Monica Aldama and Jerry Harris
| Credit: Jim Spellman/Getty (2)

"Plaintiffs were 'star struck,' as Harris was already a known All-Star Cheer personality, icon and coach within the state and nationally," the suit states.

A statement from Sarah Klein, the plaintiffs' civil attorney, asserts: "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. 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."

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.