The only adult charged in the gang rape of an 11-year-old Southern California girl pleaded not guilty Wednesday to multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, kidnapping to commit rape and engaging in criminal street gang activity.
Michael Devon Sykes, 19, also denied special allegations that would enhance the charges during a brief arraignment hearing in Riverside Superior Court.
Sykes is one of at least five people charged in either adult or juvenile court in the March 10 assault of the Moreno Valley girl. Prosecutors say she was walking home from school when she was lured by an older girl into a park bathroom and attacked by seven teenage boys.
Police have said some of the teens are known members of a relatively new and homegrown gang called the South Side Mafia, which first came to the attention of authorities in late 2008 in the city about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Four of the teens, who range in age from 15 to 17, have been charged in juvenile court. Prosecutors are fighting to move those cases to adult court and cite the premeditated nature and severity of the alleged crimes for doing so.
A juvenile court judge has ordered the Probation Department to prepare a report on the teens by April 25 as he decides whether to send them to adult court.
The older girl and two other boys have not been charged as adults. Authorities have declined to say if they have been charged as juveniles, citing confidentiality laws.
Sykes' next court appearance will be May 13, said John Hall, spokesman for the district attorney's office.
The arraignment came a day after a peace vigil at the park where police say the attack happened. About 300 residents and church members gathered to sing, pray and display signs calling for peace.