(CBS/KHOU/AP) LIBERTY, Texas - Six of the 19 men and boys accused of taking part in a series of sexual assaults on an 11-year-old girl pleaded not guilty Monday in a case that has horrified and divided the small Texas town of Cleveland.
Since February, police have arrested individuals ranging from a middle-school student to a 27-year-old, accusing them of sexually assaulting the girl on at least four occasions starting in September.
According to CBS affiliate KHOU, The six indicted individuals - Tyrone Ellis, Jr., 19; Devo Green, 20; Carlos Ligons, 22; Jamarcus Napper, 18; Walter Harrison, 26; and Cedrick Scott, 27 - entered their not guilty pleas during arraignment hearings.
Seven others who had previously pleaded not guilty - Timothy Ellis; Kelvin King, 21; Xavier King, 17; Eric McGowen, 19; Jared McPherson, 18; Marcus Porchia, 26; and Isaiah Ross, 21 - were also in court.
The judge said he would target July 25, 2011 for the start of the first jury trial. As of now, it appears that each suspect will be tried individually, meaning the trials will likely continue into late summer or early fall.
Last month, Liberty County District Judge Mark Morefield issued a sweeping gag order barring anyone who could be called to testify at the trial from talking to the news media. The order bars the defendants, attorneys and investigators from disseminating information about the upcoming trial. It also bars all potential "witnesses" from discussing the case, including parents, siblings, relatives and foster parents of the parties involved.
Authorities began investigating the case in December after a friend of the girl told a teacher he had seen a lurid cell phone video that showed the girl being raped.
Police investigators determined it was recorded inside an abandoned mobile home on the city's northern outskirts. The girl told investigators she was raped on Nov. 28, first at a house near the mobile home and then at the trailer.
Indictments in the case allege that before the Nov. 28 attack, the girl also was assaulted on Sept. 15 and Oct. 25. Each of those times, at least two individuals were involved.
The case has prompted nationwide outrage. Some in the town have defended the accused, claiming that the suspects didn't know how old she was and that she dressed provocatively.
Others have noted that an 11-year-old cannot consent to sex - no matter how she was dressed.