It's about time: The county prosecutor at the heart of the alleged rape case in Maryville, MO., called forth a prosecutor Wednesday to re-open the high-profile "Maryville rape" case. It's been more than 18 months after the alleged sexual assault of then-14-year-old, Daisy Coleman, and four days ago, the Kansas City Star newspaper ran an extended profile of the incident of Jan. 2012. Coleman had claimed that she had been raped by one of the town's football stars, Matthew Barnet — who was 17 at the time, and is the grandson of a former state representative — and the charges were dropped due to "lack of evidence." Since then, hacker-slash-activist group Anonymous, who you'll remember from the notorious Steubenville rape case, have joined a national outcry against the dropped charges.
At a press conference Wednesday, county prosecutor Robert Rice stood by the official decision that there was not, and had never been, sufficient evidence for a trial. But, he said, the attention given to the story questioned the integrity of the town's justice system, and to curb this he planned to call a "special prosecutor." The independent prosecutor will then determine whether there had been foul play regarding the dropped charges, and whether the rape case would henceforth go to trial.
Rice said that he had chosen to act after seeing a televised interview featuring the alleged victim, Daisy Coleman, and her mother. For the first time, the televised interview included Paige Parkhurst, a second victim of the night Coleman was allegedly assaulted, who publicly came forward to back up Coleman's story. At the time, one boy was sentenced to juvenile detention for the assault of Parkhurst. In an interview, Parkhurst noted that Coleman: "couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, and just was talking like a baby, pretty much” on the night of her alleged assault.
As Bustle reported:
On Jan. 7, 2012, Daisy and a 13-year-old friend were drinking and snuck out to be with Barnett and a group of friends at his house. Daisy says the last thing she remembers drinking was a “big glass of clear stuff.” After her friend was allegedly forced to have sex with a 15-year-old boy, they were brought back to Coleman’s house, where the boys said they’d look after an incoherent Daisy until she was sober again. Daisy was crying, the girl says.
Since that time, Daisy has tried to commit suicide twice, her mother says. Their house in Maryville, Mo., burned down (the questionable causes of the fire are still under investigation). The Coleman family, who lost their father in a car accident, moved back to the town where his death occurred, to escape relentless bullying. Melinda Coleman was fired from her job at a veterinary clinic because, as her former boss told the Kansas City Star, her “style of medicine didn’t jive.”
"Hacktivist" group Anonymous, who have became infamous for their social-justice advocacy using Web tools, have pledged to support Coleman's plight. In a statement, they swore to set up a rally outside the Maryville courthouse on October 22, and launch a Twitter campaign to protest county prosecutors' role in dropping the case. Anonymous was integral to the uncovering of evidence in the Steubenville rape case, and has been conducting online assaults since 2005, including against — deep breath — government agencies of the US, Israel, Tunisia, Uganda; child-pornography sites; the Westboro Baptist Church; and PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, and Sony. (They're not a limited group, but a rough term for a huge international network of global hackers and activists.)
So, what happens next? The Nodaway County judge is expected to grant Rice's request for a special prosecutor, though probably not until early next week. Then, the independent prosecutor will decide whether there's enough evidence to bring charges — as Anonymous insists on — against football star Matthew Barnet. The second boy, a friend of Barnet's, will potentially also face charges.