LIBERTY, Texas (AP) — One of six men who have pleaded guilty in the repeated sexual assault of a young southeast Texas girl over a three-month period in late 2010 was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison, the term he agreed to in his deal with prosecutors.
Jared McPherson, 20, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to a count of aggravated sexual assault of a child, didn't say anything in the Liberty courtroom before he was sentenced and taken into custody. Three other men who accepted plea deals that also call for 15-year prison terms were to be sentenced later Friday.
The four are among 20 males from nearby Cleveland, a town about 45 miles northeast of Houston, who were charged with sexually assaulting the girl, who was 11 years old at the time. Prosecutors say the girl, now 13, was assaulted on at least five occasions from mid-September through early December 2010. Police began investigating that December after a classmate of the girl's told a teacher he had seen cellphone video of men having sex with her.
All six juveniles and six of the 14 adults charged, including those being sentenced Friday, pleaded guilty. The only defendant to opt for a trial, Eric McGowen, was convicted in absentia last month and sentenced to 99 years in prison. McGowen, who had been free on bail, skipped out during a break on the first day of testimony, which included the girl's tearful recounting of the attacks and McGowen's role in them. He was arrested two weeks later in Houston.
Neither prosecutors nor McPherson's attorney, James Evans, would comment after the hearing, citing a gag order in the case. McPherson's family members, who attended the hearing, also declined to comment.
McPherson and the other three defendants being sentenced Friday — Timothy Ellis, 20; his 21-year-old cousin Rayford Ellis Jr.; and 23-year-old Kelvin King — accepted their plea deals after McGowen was tried and convicted.
The cases against the other seven adult defendants are pending.