National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Mo. Officials Reconsider Dismissed Sexual Assault Charges in Teen's Case

Mo. Officials Reconsider Dismissed Sexual Assault Charges in Teen's Case

October 17, 2013 — A Missouri county prosecutor who dropped changes in a case involving sexual assault allegations by a Missouri teen said on Wednesday that he will ask a court to appoint a special prosecutor and consider re-filing charges, CNN reports (Martinez et al., CNN, 10/17.

The case involves an alleged sexual assault that occurred in Maryville, Mo., in January 2012. Then-14-year-old Daisy Coleman, a high school freshman, alleged that a 17-year-old senior, Matthew Barnett, raped her while she was incapacitated and left her outside in freezing weather. Barnett initially received a felony charge of sexual assault, but it was later dropped, leaving only a misdemeanor charge of child endangerment (Watkins/Ford, CNN, 10/16). That charge was subsequently dropped.

The case received renewed attention this week after the Kansas City Star published a detailed investigation of the sexual assault allegations and evidence, the circumstances surrounding the dropped charges and the alleged harassment of the Colemans, who have since moved out of Maryville (Arnett, Kansas City Star, 10/12).

On Wednesday, Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice said he decided to request the appointment of a special prosecutor in light of media reports about the case this week. He added that he takes issue with the way his handling of the case was portrayed in the press, particularly in the Star article (CNN, 10/17).

Lt. Gov. Also Calls for Review

Meanwhile, Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R) on Tuesday said the case should be reopened and reviewed by a grand jury.

Kinder said the "appalling facts in the [case's] public record shock the conscience and cry out that responsible authorities must take another look." He added, "I hope that responsible officials will join me in this call for a grand jury to make the final call on whether criminal charges should or should not be filed."

Reaction To Calls for New Inquiries

In an interview with CNN, Nodaway County Sheriff Dan White said that his office handled the case "flawlessly," adding, "My initial reaction would be that apparently the lieutenant governor has chosen to simply also get involved in the hype and the social media because at no point in time has the lieutenant governor's office made any request to see any actual reports."

Melinda Coleman, Daisy's mother, said she would like the case to be reopened to "see some justice."

However, a Missouri attorney general spokesperson on Tuesday said the case cannot be reopened at the lieutenant governor's request because "[s]tate law provides the Attorney General's Office with no authority to review or overrule a prosecutor's charging decisions" (CNN, 10/16).

Hacker Group Gets Involved

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the loosely associated international group of online activists and hackers known as Anonymous said on Tuesday that it would launch a "Twitter storm" and stage an Oct. 22 rally outside a Maryville courthouse to show support for Daisy Coleman and draw attention to the case.

Anonymous likened the case to a separate sexual assault case involving teenagers in Steubenville, Ohio, and said in an online post, "We demand an immediate investigation into the handling by local authorities of Daisy's case" (Murphy, Reuters, 10/16).