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Maryville Rape Case refers to the trial of a high school student for sexual assault in Maryville, Missouri, which took place in January 2012. Though the case was closed in March 2012, the story resurfaced in the U.S. news media in October 2013 after Anonymous launched Operation Maryville in an attempt to to draw national attention to the situation and get the case reopened.
At approximately 1 a.m. on January 8th, 2012, 14-year-old Daisy Coleman and her 13-year-old friend snuck out of the Coleman’s home in Maryville, Missouri to drink with a group of boys at the home of 17-year-old Matthew Barnett, a football player at their high school. By 2 a.m. the girls were allegedly escorted home, but Daisy remained missing for several hours until 5 a.m., when her family members found her on the front porch wearing nothing but sweatpants and a t-shirt in 30 degree subzero weather.
Later that morning, Daisy and her friend were both taken to a local hospital for examination and the test result indicated that Daisy had been sexually taken advantage of. During the police investigation, Barnett admitted to having sex with her and it was also revealed that one of his friends Jordan Zech had recorded the event using his iPhone, which was subsequently seized by the authorities. Zech was initially arrested on charges of sexual exploitation, however, the case was eventually dropped in March due to lack of evidence.
March 2012: Change.org Petition
In early 2012, it was revealed Barnett’s grandfather is Rex Barnett, Republican state representative of Missouri. A Change.org petition was launched that month to encourage Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to investigate Maryville’s Sheriff Darrin White, as he served on at least one committee with Rex Barnett at the time. The petition, which noted that the girls had been dealing with cyberbullying and harassment since the event, received 1,200 signatures before it was closed.
March 2012: Barnett’s Charges Dropped
On March 13th, 2012, the sexual assault charges made against Matthew Barnett were dropped, allegedly due to lack of evidence, even though the girls’ rape kits had not been fully processed yet. Daisy allegedly learned about the charges being dropped on Facebook, where the boys and their friends began using the hashtag #jordanandmattarefree to celebrate their release.
July 2013: KCUR Report
The case remained under the radar until July 2013, when Kansas City Public Radio did an investigative report into why the charges had been dropped. They compared the case to the December 2012 case in Steubenville, Ohio, but noted that when the charges were officially dropped in March 2012, Daisy’s mother Melinda was never given a clear answer as to why. The article also included quotes from Sheriff Darren White (shown below), who said that he believed a crime took place and the perpetrators should be punished for it, as well as the Nodaway County prosecutor Robert Rice, who claimed that the charges were dropped because he refuses to “participate in a public lynching” of the accused boys and the victim and her family were being uncooperative.
October 2013: Kansas City Star Report
On October 12th, 2013, Dugan Arnett of the Kansas City Star brought new attention to the story, noting that the Colemans had moved out of Maryville after Melinda lost her job, but the house they were selling mysteriously burned down in April. The article also noted Daisy had attempted suicide twice since the incident. Sheriff White was also interviewed, sporting a much different attitude and asserting that the family should just “get over it.” The next day, the story was featured on Gawker, where it was viewed more than 363,000 times in 72 hours.
Anonymous Launches #OpMaryville
On October 14th, members of Anonymous released a video (shown below) announcing the launch of Operation Maryville in order to get justice for Daisy and her friend. Though the original upload of this video was deleted by YouTube, it was reuploaded on October 16th.
That evening, a Pastebin document was released information to help Twitter users raise awareness about the case with the hashtags #OpMaryville and #Justice4Daisy. Additionally, a Facebook event was created to organize a protest in front of the Nodaway County Courthouse on October 22nd. Between October 14th and 15th, dozens of news sites and internet culture blogs posted about Daisy’s case and Anonymous’ involvement including Al Jazeera America, the Atlantic, International Business Times, BuzzFeed, Time, the Daily Dot, New York Magazine, Information Week and Gawker, among many others. On October 15th, Daisy and her mother Melinda were interviewed on CNN (shown below), where they claimed other girls had come forward stating they had been assaulted by the same group of boys.
Immediately following the news coverage of the case, Missouri’s Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder revealed his intention to get the case reopened, urging the state Attorney General Chris Koster and the county prosecutor Bob Rice to join his request to convene a grand jury in the circuit court. On October 17th, Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert Rice, who had dropped the felony charges against the boys earlier in March, held a press conference to announce that a motion has been filed for a judge to appoint a special prosecutor to review the allegations in the case.
On January 7th, 2014, Melinda Coleman posted a Facebook status update in which she revealed that her daughter has been hospitalized since Sunday after she made yet another attempt on her own life. According to Coleman, Daisy’s latest suicide attempt came shortly after she was verbally assaulted on Twitter for making a brief appearance at a friend’s party on Saturday. Furthermore, Melinda called on Anonymous to help with “[their] super hacking skills.” According to the family, Daisy is in stable condition at a children’s psychiatric hospital in Kansas City.
Barnett Pleads Guilty
On January 9th, only days after Daisy made another attempt on her own life, the county’s special prosecutor Jean Peters Baker formally filed a criminal charge against Matthew Barnett with a single count of misdemeanor child endangerment, which alleges that Barnett endangered a semi-conscious Coleman when he left her in the frozen yard of her Maryville home. According to the court records:
“The defendant acted with criminal negligence in a manner that created a substantial risk to the life, body and health of D.C., a child less than 17 years old, by providing D.C. with alcohol until she was substantially intoxicated and impaired, and then leaving D.C. outside of her home in the below-freezing temperatures when D.C. was incapable of protecting or caring for herself.”
The filing of the misdemeanor charge was quickly picked up by numerous local news outlets, such as the Kansas City Star, NBC-affiliate KSHB-TV and Fox-affiliate WDAF-TV, followed by hundreds of major news outlets in the United States. After the news broke, @YourAnonCentral, one of the Twitter accounts affiliated with OpMaryville, tweeted a message lamenting the outcome of the investigation.
Al Jazeera America – Anonymous launches #OpMaryville after dropped rape case
New York Magazine – Anonymous Warns of Steubenville Redux in Maryville Rape Case
Information Week – Anonymous Targets Alleged Rapists In Maryville, Mo.
The Daily Dot – Why did YouTube pull Anonymous’s warning to Maryville?
Kansas City Star – Prosecutor clears way for new charges in Maryville sex assault case
The Kansas City Star – Endangerment charge filed in contentious Maryville sex assault case
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