Two cheerleaders featured in the popular Netflix docuseries “Cheer” were arrested this week in separate criminal cases relating to alleged sexual misconduct involving minors — the latest arrests connected to a show already tainted by misconduct allegations against breakout star Jerry Harris.
Robert Joseph Scianna Jr., a 25-year-old coach and choreographer with a large international fanbase, was arrested Wednesday in Virginia and charged with felony counts of taking indecent liberties with a child and using an electronic communication device to solicit sex, according to the Chesterfield County Police Department. Police said he arranged to meet a juvenile whom he met through a social media platform for sex. Scianna could not be reached Friday for comment.
Mitchell Ryan, a member of the Navarro College cheer team featured in “Cheer,” was arrested Wednesday in Texas. Ryan, 23, was charged with felony aggravated sexual assault of a child relating to an incident that allegedly occurred July 24, Dallas County Sheriff’s Department records show.
“This has been a nightmare for Mitch and his family,” Ryan’s attorney Jeremy Rosenthal said. “We look forward to Dallas County hearing the truth and this case being over.” Rosenthal declined further comment.
Their arrests come nearly five months after celebrity cheerleader Harris, a breakout star of the Netflix docuseries, was arrested and accused of soliciting nude photos and sex from minors. Harris, 21, is facing multiple felony charges, including sexual exploitation of children and transportation with intent for illicit sexual conduct.
The allegations against Harris were first published by USA TODAY as part of an investigation into sexual misconduct in cheerleading. That investigation revealed pervasive failures in how the U.S. All Star Federation (USASF), the governing body of competitive cheerleading, handled allegations of misconduct involving minors.
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USASF suspended Scianna on Wednesday but did not suspend Ryan until after USA TODAY published the allegations against him on Friday. The governing body has been aware of the allegations against Ryan since October, according a statement provided by USASF. Angela Rogers, co-owner of the Cheer Athletics gym where Ryan had worked, told USA TODAY the company learned of the allegations against Ryan last year and immediately fired him and reported to police and USASF.
USASF did not explain why it waited to suspend Ryan.
“When USASF received a complaint in late October against Mr. Ryan, we immediately ensured that it had been reported to law enforcement and later began an investigation of our own, which was ongoing when he was arrested,” USASF said in its statement.
Both Scianna and Ryan are well-known in the cheer world.
Scianna, a celebrity cheerleader with 237,000 followers on Instagram, was featured in an episode of “Cheer,” posing with another prominent cheerleader, Gabi Butler, in a nighttime photoshoot for Rebel Athletic. According to his website, Scianna has hosted more than 300 cheerleading camps and choreographed 140 routines, working with gyms in more than 13 countries.
Sgt. Winfred Lewis of the Chesterfield County Police Department said Scianna messaged someone he believed to be a 14-year-old boy on Tuesday and Wednesday and arranged to meet. He was arrested before that meeting took place. Lewis declined to elaborate on the case, but he said there appears to be no connection to cheerleading.
“He likely has a lot of possible contact with juveniles, with underage kids,” Lewis said, referring to Scianna’s involvement in the cheer world. “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.”
Police said Scianna is being held in the Chesterfield County Jail without bond.
Ryan cheered on the Navarro College team featured on “Cheer” but is not listed on the current roster. He also was a member of the Cheer Athletics Wildcats, a team that competed last summer on the hit NBC show “America’s Got Talent.” Ryan posted bond Friday and was released from jail, records show.
Netflix declined to comment on the arrests. It referred USA TODAY to a prior statement it made after Harris’ arrest: “Like everyone we are shocked by this news. Any abuse of minors is a terrible crime and we respect the legal process.”
Share your story: Help USA TODAY investigate misconduct in cheerleading
Tricia L. Nadolny and Marisa Kwiatkowski are reporters on USA TODAY’s national investigative team. Tricia can be reached email@example.com or @TriciaNadolny. Marisa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @byMarisaK or by phone, Signal or WhatsApp at (317) 207-2855.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Two Netflix ‘Cheer’ athletes accused of sexual misconduct with minors
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