On Sunday morning, the Kansas City Star published a horrific account of the rape and subsequent harassment of 14-year-old Daisy Coleman and her family. By early Monday morning, the hacktivist group Anonymous had taken up the cause on the Coleman’s behalf.
The facts of the case are not in dispute: on January 8, 2012, a high school senior recorded himself having sex with Daisy Coleman, then left her, drunk and nearly unconscious, on her parents’ front lawn in freezing weather. The senior in question, Matthew Barnett, had given her “a big glass of clear stuff,” and tests at the hospital seven hours later showed her with a blood alcohol level of 0.13.
Barnett was arrested and charged with sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a minor, and while in custody confessed to having sex with the drunk 14-year-old, but insisted that it was consensual. He also admitted to leaving her “outside sitting in 30-degree weather,” and it was Barnett who informed police that the sex had been recorded on an iPhone. Police later executed a search warrant on the Barnett home, which yielded physical evidence including Coleman’s panties and a bottle of Bacardi Big Apple.
“Within four hours,” Sheriff White told the Star, “we had obtained a search warrant for the house and executed that. We had all of the suspects in custody and had audio/video confessions.”
Despite this, two weeks later the charges were all dropped. Barnett’s grandfather, Rex, a Republican state representative, claims that the dismissal had nothing to do with political influence. The prosecutor who worked the case said that teens “were doing what they wanted to do, and there weren’t any consequences. And it’s reprehensible. But is it criminal? No.”
The Coleman family moved away, but had been unable to sell their house. Last April, it burned to the ground in what authorities characterized as a “suspicious circumstance.”
Early this morning, in response to the Star‘s report, Anonymous posted a letter to the town of Maryville:
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.
Update 11:38 a.m. EST: The victim in this case is underage and her name would not normally be released; however, the Star appended the following to their coverage of the case:
Seven months ago, The Star began looking into the 2012 case of two young teens who told authorities they were sexually assaulted by older boys. The Star spoke extensively with the mothers of the girls, interviewed dozens of others and reviewed hundreds of pages of records, from sheriff’s office interviews with the accused to medical records. While most documents were sealed by authorities, many were copied previously by the Coleman family and provided to The Star.
Though The Star’s policy usually is not to name alleged victims in sexual assault incidents, or cases of attempts on one’s life, exceptions have been made in some cases. Daisy Coleman’s name appears in this article with the permission and cooperation of the Coleman family.
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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