The 2010 gang rapes in Cleveland, Texas were a series of acts of sexual violence committed by a group of adult men and teenage boys on an underage girl in the town of Cleveland, in Texas , USA.
The victim was the 11-year old daughter of Mexican immigrants, living in Cleveland, Texas, a "timber town" of about nine thousand people in the Greater Houston metropolitan area and Liberty County. Her father was a former construction worker, unemployed at the time for a year and a half because of a back injury, while her mother was working making change in a slot game room.
The group of perpetrators included students at the local high school, two of whom were members of the basketball team and one the son of a school-board member, and persons with criminal records, from selling drugs to robbery and, in one case, manslaughter. They ranged from middle schoolers to one 27-year-old, at the time of the crime.
On the Monday after Thanksgiving day, on 29 November 2010, a cell phone video clip with images of the sexual encounter between a group of males and a young female circulated in the cafeteria of Cleveland's high school. Some viewers recognized the girl as a 6th grader from the middle school next door. A friend of the girl told a teacher what he had seen in the cell-phone video, as a school-district spokeswoman subsequently stated, and the police were alerted.
Police investigators identified and contacted the girl, whereupon she stated that, over the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday break, she was raped by a group of young men first at a house and then in a mobile home. According to a search warrant affidavit obtained by the media, police determined the video clip was recorded inside an abandoned mobile home on the city's northern outskirts, next to a Baptist church. According to the subsequent, criminal indictments, the girl was assaulted on four separate occasions: the first in September, followed by three more throughout the fall of 2010. In January 2011, she was removed by social workers from her parents' home and taken to foster care.
The investigation stirred racial tensions on account of the defendants all being African-Americans and the girl Hispanic, in both the town and nationwide. The event was publicized nationwide in the States and also abroad.
On Monday 4 April 2011, nineteen defendants appeared in the court of Liberty County district judge Mark Morefield for their arraignment hearing, with six of them pleading "not guilty."
The New York Times ' first report focused on the impact of the crime on the Cleveland community. The report came under criticism for its alleged "sympathy" for the accused, to the point where the newspaper sent another reporter back at the place and published a self-critical article.
Quanell X, community leader and head of the New Black Panthers, was an "outspoken critic" of the victim. In a press conference in front of a Cleveland church, he asked rhetorically where the girl's parents were when this happened and why was "that child experiencing so much sex with so many African-American men." He also disputed the rape claims since, as he put it, the girl never actually yelled the word "rape" during the assault and did not make an "outcry" until after footage of the assault surfaced. The media reported that the audience "cheered and hollered in agreement."
Florida representative Kathleen Passidomo proposed that the state should step in and regulate the wardrobe of young girls. Pasidomo referred to "an article about an 11 year old girl who was gang-raped in Texas by 18 young men because she was dressed like a 21-year-old prostitute.”
In Texas, sexual assault against a person under 17 years of age is a second degree felony, and aggravated sexual assault a first degree felony. Eventually, twenty-one persons were charged with crimes related to the gang rape. Only two adult males requested trials, and juries handed each defendant a 99-year prison sentence. Eleven other adult males pleaded guilty to the charges against them and received 15-year sentences in exchange. All seven juveniles entered guilty pleas and received seven-year probated prison-sentences. The twenty-first and last defendant pleaded guilty after a year long investigation whereby a DNA specimen identified him as being at the crime scene. The defendant received a reduced seven-year sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to indecently exposing himself to a child. All defendants sentenced to prison would be registered as sex offenders for ten years after completing the sentence.
When the investigation started, the victim's family moved to another town after police detectives told the parents that they were in danger, while the girl who was reported as raped was placed by the Child Protective Services in the care of the Girls' Haven in Beaumont, Texas. In December 2011, she ran away from the residential facility and was "on the streets for about a week," as the Jefferson County prosecutor stated. He revealed that, at some point, she met a 30-year-old male with a prior conviction as a drug dealer in Fort Bend County, who subsequently assaulted her at his apartment in Beaumont. The assailant was arrested and pleaded guilty in September 2012 to aggravated sexual assault of a child in exchange for deferred probation. In 2013, the girl revealed she was pregnant, allegedly from her "15-year old boyfriend," and that they would keep the baby.