By Deborah Quinn Hensel
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Multiple suspects in the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in an abandoned trailer in a small Texas town last year appeared in court on Wednesday to respond to charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child.
News of the assaults, which police said took place over a period of weeks and may have involved 19 men and boys, drew international attention and polarized the town of Cleveland's population of 9,000 when the case came to light last spring.
Court officials would not speak on record about the case on Wednesday nor confirm how many adult suspects appeared in court due to a gag order imposed by Judge Mark Morefield.
Assistant Chief Darrel Broussard of the Cleveland Police Department said on Wednesday that 19 suspects had been arrested and charged in connection with the sexual assaults which took place in Cleveland, about 50 miles northeast of Houston.
Of those 19, 15 were adult males and four were juveniles, Broussard said. The juveniles will answer to the charges against them in juvenile court.
Cleveland Independent School District spokesperson Stacey Gatlin told Reuters in March that authorities were notified of the rape accusation after a student from the district found a video of the assault.
Five of the suspects are students from the school district, Broussard said. The girl's parents withdrew her from the school district at that time, Gatlin said.
She was placed in foster care for protection, and it was unclear on Wednesday if she had been returned to her family.
(Editing by Karen Brooks and Cynthia Johnston)