In the small community of Cleveland, Texas, an unidentified eleven year old girl was sexually assaulted in an abandoned mobile home and also in a relatives’ house of one of the defendants accused of raping her.
The assaults happened during last year’s Thanksgiving holidays, but the full story didn’t emerge until earlier this year. As many as 28 defendants may have been involved in the alleged attack, which was recorded on cell phone videos and circulated in the school district the girl attended.
The alleged sexual assaults began when the eleven year old was persuaded to go “riding around” with a nineteen year old and two other men.
The only reasonable defense for any of the accused is that they weren’t there, and didn’t participate in the sexual assaults.
Meanwhile, one defense attorney is alluding to the allegation that the female victim was a willing participant. Even if that is so, it’s no defense under Texas law.
Prosecution investigators point out that, according to Texas law, an eleven year old cannot give legal consent . The age of consent in Texas is seventeen, as a general rule.
A defense attorney for three of the young men is perhaps hoping to take advantage of a broader interpretation of the law. A person may have an “affirmative defense” when an older sexual partner is under age 18 but within three years of the age of the alleged victim.
Some of the accused in the Cleveland, TX case are fourteen years old. To prosecute a fourteen year old in the Cleveland, Texas case, the prosecution would have to prove that the defendant put the victim under duress, used forced, or the threat of force.
If the sex crime committed against the eleven year old were not so vile, defense attorney James D. Evans III comment to the Houston Chronicle would be laughable:
“This is not a case of a child who was enslaved or taken advantage of,” said the lawyer who represents three of the defendants.
The attorney’s tactic is plain on all counts. The injection of the ” enslaved ” word is designed to draw the argument away from what prosecutors are charging and toward what they are not.
There is no crime called “taken advantage of.” Nor have the Cleveland prosecutors accused the young men of violating U.S. laws against “enslavement.” In Texas, there is a crime called ” Sexual Assault of a Child ,” termed “statutory rape” in other states.
The eleven year old girl has rightly been removed from the vicinity where threats against her persist. If there is anything redeemable in any of this, it will come from any of the defendants who know they have done wrong, and come forward to plead guilty, sparing the citizens of Cleveland, Texas the agony of a trial.