Man sentenced to life for raping 11-year-old

Jared Cruse charged with aggravated sexual assault

CLEVELAND, Texas - A man was found guilty and sentenced to life Wednesday in the second trial involving one of 21 men and boys who have been accused of gang-raping an 11-year-old girl.

Jared Cruse, 20, was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 14. He received the maximum punishment of life without parole.

Jurors spent 90 minutes deliberating to convict Cruse and 15 minutes to sentence him.

In Liberty County's 75th District Court Tuesday, the now 13-year-old girl testified that she was a willing participant in multiple sexual acts with multiple partners on multiple occasions.

All the encounters happened in late 2010, many of them occurring inside an abandoned trailer.

Closing arguments lasted less than an hour Wednesday. 

The prosecution mostly referred to a graphic cellphone video shown in court Tuesday that allegedly featuring Jared Cruse and the 11-year-old girl having sex.  During testimony, the girl identified herself and Cruse as being those seen in the video.

The prosecution closed by telling the jury this case was about an adult taking advantage of a child. The defense argued it was instead about accountability, saying blamelessness is not accountability.

In the sentencing phase of the trial, jurors learned that Cruse was already a convicted felon. He is serving an eight-year prison sentence for robbing a convenience store in San Jacinto County and for shooting a woman. Both crimes happened a few months after he raped the girl.

Eric McGowen was the first man to be tried in this case. He was convicted in August and sentenced to 99 years in prison. 

Six of the other men have accepted plea deals and were each sentenced to 15 years in prison.  There were also six juveniles allegedly involved in sex acts with the girl, who was in sixth grade at the time. 

The next suspect to be tried in the case is JaMarcus Napper. His trial is scheduled for January.

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