Two suspects in alleged Cleveland gang rape make plea deals

January 21, 2012 1:41:43 PM PST
Two of the 20 people charged with taking part in multiple sexual assaults of an 11-year-old Cleveland girl have made plea deals with prosecutors. The assaults took place over a three-month period last fall and the accusations have stunned the community.

Since we're talking about minors, details of the plea agreement and subsequent punishment are being kept under wraps. Our legal analyst tells us these court-approved plea deals could have huge implications for the 18 others who've been charged.

When news of the sex assaults involving the 11-year-old girl first broke, it caused quite a stir and thrust the close-knit community of Cleveland into the national glare of publicity. Family members of those arrested have been calling for answers.

"To find out what's going on with our young men and what can we do to help them," said the relative of one suspect.

Since the investigation began earlier this year, 20 men and boys, including two star high school athletes and a school board member's son, have been charged in a series of alleged rapes that took place over a three-month period in an abandoned trailer.

On Wednesday, we've learned two of the six minors who were said to be involved agreed to a court-approved deal to plead guilty. Liberty County attorney Wesley Hinch is prosecuting those cases.

"We are working diligently to resolve juvenile cases either through plea agreements or through trials. Some of the cases are moving forward and we're working diligently to ensure the protection of the public and to hopefully rehabilitate these young men," Hinch said.

Details of the deals are not being released, but our legal analyst calls Wednesday's developments significant and believes they will undoubtedly bolster the state's case.

"What the state wants to do is get the people that are the least culpable as a group to turn on the most culpable. They don't want to deal with the most culpable person until the end," said KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy.

Hinch says it's possible that the juveniles who've already pleaded out could testify against some of the other suspects in the case. It's certainly not out of the question.