Suspects in assaults of Cleveland girl appear in court

April 4, 2011 4:07:59 PM PDT
We have an update to the story that has ignited anger and divided the small town of Cleveland.

Some of the 19 men and boys facing charges of sexually assaulting the same 11-year-old girl appeared before a Liberty County judge on Monday.

Four of them entered their not guilty pleas during arraignment hearings, and and 11 others who were scheduled to appear Monday had their court dates reset. However, most of the indicted individuals already have entered not guilty pleas.

Marcus Porchia left the courtroom without comment. He drove off but was ordered to return to court July 6.

Ellis chose to cover his head as he walked out. Ellis was walking beside a woman who identified herself to Eyewitness News as his mother. She said little else and gave us this warning:

"I don't want to talk to you people, OK? Please leave me alone," she said.

"His trial has been set, any thoughts on that?" we asked her.

"Harassment -- that's what I'm gonna get you for if you don't leave me alone," she said.

In Ellis' case, the judge set a trial date of July 25.

In total, 14 suspects were scheduled to appear in court in Liberty County on Monday; nine cases were reset to July 6, and two cases were reset to May 2. Three cases are pending.

Since February, police have arrested 19 men and boys ranging from a middle-school student to a 27-year-old, accusing them of sexually assaulting the girl on at least four occasions. Those arrested include two of Cleveland's star high school athletes and adults with criminal records.

The case has divided the 8,000-resident town of Cleveland. A few in the town had expressed doubts about the case, even suggesting authorities should consider culpability on the part of the girl. Many supported the investigation and condemned those accused in the attacks.

Authorities began investigating in December after a friend of the girl told a teacher he had seen a lurid cell phone video that showed her being raped inside a dingy abandoned trailer. The video had been passed around among the 11-year-old girl's classmates, authorities said.

Police investigators determined the video was recorded inside a mobile home on the city's northern outskirts. The girl told investigators she was raped on Nov. 28, first at a house near the mobile home and then at the trailer. Indictments in the case allege that before the Nov. 28 attack, the girl also was assaulted on Sept. 15, Oct. 25 and Dec. 1. Each of those times, at least two individuals were involved, authorities said.

The judge made it clear that the suspects cannot contact the victim, her family or friends. The judge also placed a gag order in the case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Load Comments