By JUAN A. LOZANOAssociated Press
LIBERTY, Texas (AP) - A man who is part of a group of 20 males accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl in a case that horrified and divided their small Texas town has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Marcus Porchia was sentenced earlier this month to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child as part of an agreement with prosecutors, according to court records. Porchia's guilty plea is the second among the 14 adults charged in the case. He had been facing up to life in prison.
Authorities say the girl was assaulted at least five times between mid-September and early December 2010 by males ranging in age from a middle school student to a 28-year-old. Those charged included two star athletes at the local high school and adults with criminal records.
The case brought unflattering attention to Cleveland, a town of 9,000 residents about 45 miles northeast of Houston, after some residents suggested the girl was in part responsible for what happened, saying she wore makeup, looked older and wasn't properly supervised by her parents. Other community residents, as well as those outside of town, sharply criticized those suggestions.
The case also has been complicated by a belief among 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.
Five of six juveniles charged in the case have pleaded guilty, as has one other adult, Isaiah Ross, 22, who awaits sentencing.
Porchia's sentence will run concurrently with a 15-year term he received in February for a sexual assault conviction involving another girl in a separate case. The 27-year-old has agreed to testify against others in the case, whose trials are not set. Most of the men face charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child, while four face a charge of continuous sexual abuse of a child.
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