CLEVELAND, Texas – A 20th person has been charged in the alleged gang rape of an 11-year-old Cleveland girl, The Cleveland Advocate reports.
According to The Advocate, the most recent charges are against a person who is now considered an adult, but was a minor at the time of the alleged assaults.
All 20 of the suspects – who range in age from a middle-school student to a 27-year-old—have pleaded not guilty.
The investigation began in December, after one of the girl’s friends told a teacher he had seen a lurid cell phone video that showed the girl being raped in an abandoned trailer. The case became public after arrests were made in February.
Authorities say the girl was assaulted on at least five occasions, sometimes by as many as seven or eight young men or boys at a time, from mid-September to early December.
Most of the adult suspects face charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child, while four face a charge of continuous sexual abuse of a child.
The case shined a sometimes unflattering spotlight on Cleveland after some in the town of about 9,000 residents suggested the girl was culpable in part for what happened, claiming she wore makeup and looked older. Some also accused her parents, immigrants from Mexico, of not watching her more closely. Those suggestions were sharply criticized by many Cleveland residents and by community and religious groups outside the city.
Also complicating the case was a belief by many in the predominantly black neighborhood where several of the suspects live that the arrests were racially motivated. All of the suspects are black, while the girl is Hispanic.
A Texas judge issued a sweeping gag order barring anyone who could be called to testify at the trial from talking to the news media.
The order also bars the defendants, attorneys and investigators from disseminating information about the upcoming trial.