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Anonymous Targets Town for Dropping Charges Against Man Who Allegedly Sexually Assaulted 14-Year-Old and Left Her to Die

After allegations of rape were aired, online verbal abuse was routinely directed at the 14-year-old who allegedly suffered sexual assault.
 
 
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Nodaway County Courthouse in Maryville, Missouri.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

Update:On Monday, the hacktivist collective Anonymous published a letter pledging to go after the town unless the accused rapists faced consequences for their actions. Here's the letter: 

 

We demand an immediate investigation into the handling by local authorities of Daisy’s case. Why was a suspect, who confessed to a crime, released with no charges? How was video and medical evidence not enough to put one of these football players inside a court room? What is the connection of these prosecutors, if any, to Rep. Rex Barnett? Most of all, We are wondering, how do the residents of Maryville sleep at night?

If Maryville won’t defend these young girls, if the police are too cowardly or corrupt to do their jobs, if justice system has abandoned them, then we will have to stand for them. Mayor Jim Fall, your hands are dirty. Maryville, expect us.

What happens when accusations of rape are aired at a popular football player from a well-connected family who lives in a small town? A nightmare occurs. That’s the only way to describe what happened to the Coleman family, who were driven out of Maryville, Missouri.

A stunning, deeply reported story in the Kansas City Star based on investigative records and interviewsby reporter Dugan Arnett tells the story of the Coleman family and the allegations of sexual assault that eventually led to a 14-year-old being bullied and verbally abused online. The Coleman family’s house burnt down with no explanation after the allegations were aired. 14-year-old Daisy Coleman, who said she was raped, tried to commit suicide twice. And though charges were filed against the boys accused of videotaping and carrying out the rape, they were eventually dropped--even though the sheriff says a crime was definitely committed.

It brings to mind the Steubenville, Ohio rape case, though the boys were charged and convicted over charges of sexual assault in that case.

On January 7, 2012, Daisy Coleman, a 14-year-old high school freshman at Maryville High, began drinking with a 13-year-old friend. They were invited over to the house of Matthew Barnett, a 17-year-old senior football player. The girls drank some more, so much so that the next morning Daisy was found with .13 blood alcohol level.

Daisy was found the next morning sprawled out on her front porch, barely conscious, after a freezing cold night. Her mother, Melinda Coleman, undressed her for a bath and found red marks around her vagina. “Immediately, I knew what had happened,” Coleman told the Kansas City Star.

Daisy and her 13-year-old female friend were taken to a local hospital, and the police arrived. While Daisy couldn’t remember much, her friend did. The story that emerged is that the 13-year-old went into a bedroom with a 15-year-old boy who was friends with Barnett. The 13-year-old said “no” multiple times, but the 15-year-old put on a condom and had sex with her anyway, according to the sheriff’s records. One student videotaped one of the sex scenes, though it was not found.

The boys involved were taken in for questioning, and Barnett was charged with sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child. Sheriff Darren White was confident that he could get prosecutions. He was wrong.

After the allegations were aired in public, the abuse directed at the Coleman family commenced. The brother of one of the boys who hung out with Barnett that night said that Daisy “gets whats comin.” She was suspended from the cheerleading squad. Daisy’s brother Charlie also was harassed. Melinda Coleman was fired from her job at a veterinary clinic by a woman with ties to one of the teens at the Barnett home the night the sexual assault happened.

The charges against Barnett were eventually dropped. Barnett’s grandfather had been a longtime member of the Missouri House of Representatives. The grandfather also had ties to the prosecutor: “Barnett’s granddaughter worked as a volunteer on the campaign of U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, who also employs Rice’s sister as an aide in constituent services,” wrote reporter Dugan Arnett. The prosecutor denies this had anything to do with the dropped charges. He says there was no case.

The dismissal of the charges did not mean the saga was over. Online abuse directed at the Coleman family continued. “Fuck yea. That’s what you get for bein a skank : )” one Twitter message read.

The Colemans left town. The 13-year-old suffers from nightmares. Daisy tried to kill herself twice. And Barnett is enrolled in college.

 

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

 
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