By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - A Texas man accused of taking part in the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in an abandoned trailer along with 19 other men and boys was convicted on Thursday of aggravated sexual assault in a case that shocked a small Texas town, court officials said.
The man, 20-year-old Eric McGowen, was sentenced to 99 years in prison, Liberty County Court officials said. He had been free on bond pending the outcome of the trial but disappeared after the victim testified against him on Wednesday. A warrant was issued for his arrest.
Court documents show the girl told police she was picked up by three men in November 2010 and taken to an abandoned trailer where she was told she would be beaten up "by a gang of girls" if she did not engage in sexual activities with the men.
More men arrived and sexually assaulted the girl. Eventually, as many as 20 participated in the assault. The gang rape came to light after cellphone video of it surfaced.
The assault shocked residents in Cleveland, Texas, a town of 7,500 residents about 50 miles northeast of Houston, and prompted angry exchanges on Houston area talk shows.
McGowen was the first of those charged in the case -- who range from middle school age to their late twenties -- to have gone to trial. Six juveniles and two adults have pleaded guilty to charges in the case.
Prosecutors declined to discuss the case on Thursday, citing a gag order that was issued in March 2011.
(Editing by David Bailey, Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)