MARYVILLE, Mo. – A northwest Missouri prosecutor said Wednesday that hes asking for a special prosecutor to look at the case of a 14-year-old girl who says she was plied with alcohol and raped by a 17-year-old acquaintance.
The announcement from Nodaway County prosecutor Robert Rice came amid increased scrutiny over how he handled the case.
Melinda Coleman, the mother of 14-year-old Daisy Coleman, claims justice was denied when Rice dropped felony charges against the 17-year-old boy in March 2012, just two months after the incident.
The Associated Press does not generally name victims of sexual assault but is naming Daisy Coleman because she and her mother have been public about the case.
Teens, alcohol, sex
The county sheriff and Rice have insisted their investigation collapsed after the Colemans became uncooperative with investigators and refused to answer questions. Coleman says she and her daughter did cooperate and that investigators didnt do enough to push the case forward.
Rice said Wednesday that he was asking a court to appoint a special prosecutor because of publicity surrounding the case and recent media stories questioning the integrity of the justice system in the county.
He said the special prosecutor will investigate and decide whether charges will be refiled.
The incident happened in January 2012, after Daisy and a 13-year-old friend left the Colemans house at night to meet some boys.
The friend said she was raped by a 15-year-old while another teen recorded the incident. The 15-year-old was charged in the juvenile system. Charges against the other teen were dropped.
Daisy said the boys gave her alcohol, and she doesnt remember much after that. Her mother found her in the morning, passed out on the familys porch in freezing temperatures.
The boys said the sex was consensual.
Too little evidence
Rice has said there wasnt enough evidence to pursue the charges because the accusers had stopped cooperating and asserted their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
He said Wednesday that he had been concerned about the Colemans decision, so he had asked that they assert their Fifth Amendment right under oath in a deposition. He said he couldnt release the deposition because its a closed record.
I can tell you this, Rice said. We were very careful, very deliberate to make sure that they recorded that there was no misunderstanding, that they understood that at that time when they invoked their Fifth Amendment right that by doing so was going to force the dismissal of the case, that they understood that, he said.
Coleman did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment after Rices announcement. But in an interview with The Associated Press earlier in the day, she insisted she would help investigators in any way she could, even if the case never made it to trial.
I think just having it looked at fairly and having other people know how much we were bullied goes a long way. Even if thats all that ever comes out of it, she said.
Robert Sundell, who represented the teen accused of assaulting Daisy, didnt immediately return phone messages Wednesday, but he said in a statement Tuesday that his former client cooperated with the investigation and freely admitted to the sexual encounter.
Sundell said that while many may find the boys behavior reprehensible, the legal issue was whether a crime was committed.
City under fire
The case has drawn international attention to Maryville, where city officials said theyve had to increase police patrols because of threats made against residents and the city in general.
Although Coleman has said harassment over the allegations forced her family to move from Maryville, she said the harassment was from just a few residents, mainly friends and family members of the accused boys.
The mother of the boy accused of assaulting Daisy pleaded with people to stop making threats against people who are from Maryville, telling reporters that some people no longer feel safe going to work or school.
Too many questions
The case has drawn comparisons to one in Steubenville, Ohio, where two 17-year-old high school football players were convicted of raping a West Virginia girl after an alcohol-fueled party in 2012. The case was furiously debated online and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the citys celebrated football team.
Pressure has been building on Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to intervene, but his office has said it had no authority to reopen the investigation on its own.
Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones, a Republican who had called on the Democratic attorney general to step in, said the decision to seek a special prosecutor is good progress.
There seemed to be too many questions out there about this case for it to just be suddenly closed, Jones said.