Special Prosecutor Requested in Missouri Teen Rape Case

PHOTO: Daisy and Melinda Coleman
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A Missouri prosecutor has asked that a special prosecutor now look into the case of a teenager accused of plying 14-year-old Daisy Coleman with alcohol and then sexually assaulting her. The charges had been initially dropped, enraging first the alleged victim's mother and later top state officials.

The dispute has been simmering since July 2012 when Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert Rice dropped sexual assault charges against Maryville senior high school student Matthew Barnett. He and another teenager allegedly raped Daisy Coleman, 14, and her friend in January 2012.

Barnett does not deny having sex with Coleman, but denies she was incapacitated at the time.

That decision to not prosecute prompted a sharp public dispute between law enforcement and the girl's mother, Melinda Coleman, who has accused investigators of lying.

On Wednesday, Rice announced that he was asking for a special prosecutor because of publicity and recent media stories that questioned the integrity of Nodaway County's justice system.

This week, state officials had entered the dispute.

"The appalling facts in the public record shock the conscience and cry out that responsible authorities must take another look," Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder said in a statement Tuesday. He suggested that the U.S. Circuit Court convene a grand jury to review the case and determine whether criminal charges should be filed.

Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones called on the state's attorney general, Chris Koster, to intervene, something Koster had been reluctant to do earlier this year when the Coleman family petitioned him to reopen the case.

Melinda Coleman says she doesn't know why the prosecutor dropped charges against the boys who allegedly sexually assaulted her daughter and her daughter's 13-year-old friend, and her outspoken anger has spawned a public argument with police and prosecutor.

"There was insufficient evidence to prove a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The state's witnesses refused to cooperate and invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege to not testify," a statement from the Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney's office said.

Sheriff Darren White told ABC News, "Both families did not cooperate, the 13-year-old friend and Coleman. The two families did everything together."

"She wants to play the poor victim in this, but [Mrs. Coleman] certainly has issues of her own," the sheriff said. "Everyone in law enforcement and criminal justice bent over backwards to make this happen, but she absolutely destroyed the case."

The sheriff's comment that the girls and their families refused to cooperate infuriated Melinda Coleman.

"He's lying and I don't know why he's lying, but it's a lie. It's not true," she told ABC News. "I have the initial police report, the girls did the full interview. They did the rape kit and they did do the exam."

Coleman claims that there was also video of the assault on her daughter taken by one of the boys on a cellphone and she claims that the video was shown among students.

The sheriff and Barnett's lawyer said the boy readily admitted to having sex with Daisy Coleman.

"[The boys] admitted to their participation in everything that happened that evening. They admitted that they had sex, but in their mind, they didn't necessarily think they did anything wrong," White told ABC News.

"In the state of Missouri, it is not illegal for a 17-year-old to have sex with a 14-year-old, but it is illegal for someone to have sex with someone who was incapacitated. And that's where the crime occurred," he said.

White would not discuss the case of the 13-year-old girl because juvenile cases are not public.

The sheriff also said the video was quickly deleted from the cellphone and denied that it was shared among other teens.

The alleged assault occurred on the night of Jan. 8, 2012. Daisy and her younger friend were having a sleepover, staying up late and watching scary movies. Coleman had checked on the girls right before she went to sleep around midnight and then went back to her room across the hallway.

What Coleman didn't know was that Daisy and her friend had allegedly been receiving text messages that night from her older brother's friends, asking the pair to sneak out of the Coleman home and come to Matthew Barnett's house.

Daisy and her friend sneaked out through her window at 1 a.m. and met a car waiting to pick them up and take them to Barnett's home, Melinda Coleman claims.

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