Four Texas men were sentenced to 15 years in prison each after pleading guilty to repeatedly sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl. Prosecutors in the case claim that in 2010, a then-11-year-old girl was sexually assaulted on at least five occasions by as many as 20 different men. The attacks were said to have occurred between September and December of that year. Police began investigating the incidents after a schoolmate of the unnamed victim told their teacher that he had seen video footage on a cell phone of men having sex with the girl. Six of the men accused of assaulting the girl were juveniles at the time of the attacks, while the remaining 14 defendants are adults. All but one of the defendants has pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child. The single defendant who decided not to plead guilty and whose case went to trial, Eric McGowan, was convicted by a jury and sentenced to 99 years in prison last month. McGowan, who had been out of jail on bail at the start of his trial, disappeared from the court during a break on the first day of testimony, which included the testimony of the now 13-year-old female victim. McGowan was arrested two weeks later in Houston.
Legal experts following the case believe that, given the severity of the punishment McGowan received, the remaining defendants saw that it would be to their advantage to strike a plea bargain with prosecutors and try for shorter prison terms. Four men were sentenced last Friday: Timothy Ellis, who is 20 years old, Rayford Ellis, Jr., who is his cousin and 21 years of age, Kelvin King, 23, and Jared McPherson, 20. All four men were not only sentenced to 15-year prison terms, but were ordered to register with authorities as convicted sex offenders upon being released from prison.
In two unrelated cases, Rayford Ellis also pleaded guilty to charges of manslaughter stemming from an incident in 2008 while King pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated sexual assault following an attack on a different girl in 2009. Both Ellis and King received additional 15-year sentences for these cases, and the presiding judge ordered the sentences to be served at the same time as the prison terms they received for assaulting the 11-year-old girl.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors declined to comment after the sentencing since the case is ongoing and there is a gag rule in place to prevent anyone connected from speaking about it.