Man accused in Missouri rape case avoids sexual assault charges

James Barnett is instead charged with a misdemeanor count of child endangerment

The case gained national attention after an investigation by The Kansas City Star and publicity from the group Anonymous.
Sait Serkan Gurbuz/AP Photo

A Missouri man accused of raping a 14-year-old schoolmate when he was 17 was charged Thursday with a misdemeanor count of child endangerment in a case publicized by the hacktivist group Anonymous.

The single charge against 19-year-old Matt Barnett falls short of the allegations of sexual assault that saw that case garner national attention and a large outcry. Instead, Barnett is charged with endangerment for allegedly leaving the victim out in the cold in the early morning after the alleged assault.

The charge was filed in Nodaway County Court in Maryville, his hometown about 85 miles north of Kansas City.

Special prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has been re-examining Daisy Coleman's allegations that Barnett raped her at a January 2012 house party, when he was a Maryville High School senior and she was a freshman. Barnett says the sex was consensual.

Al Jazeera America does not normally name alleged victims of sexual assault, but Daisy and her family have come forward and given a number of public interviews.

Baker stepped in after the local prosecutor, Nodaway County prosecutor Robert Rice, was criticized for dropping the case. He alleged that Daisy's family had stopped cooperating — a claim she and her mother, Melinda, have repeatedly denied.

Before dropping the case, Rice had been pursuing the same second-degree misdemeanor child endangerment charge filed Thursday by Baker. The charge carries a maximum punishment of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, though the judge has leeway to lower both penalties.

Melinda Coleman said authorities didn't do enough to push the investigation forward, and she alleged that Rice's decision to drop the case was politically motivated — Barnett's grandfather was a four-term Missouri state representative who was a state trooper for 32 years. Rice has denied the accusation.

Coleman said her daughter was harassed mercilessly on social media sites and at school after going to the authorities and that it forced the family to move back to Albany, about 40 miles west of Maryville.

On Jan. 8, 2012, Daisy and a 13-year-old friend sneaked out of Daisy's house and were picked up by Barnett and some other boys, including some who were friends with her older brother, and taken to the home of one of the boys. The girls admitted that they drank alcohol before sneaking out.

Daisy said that when she got to the party, she was given a clear liquid that she drank before being taken into a bedroom and raped while a second boy recorded the act on his cellphone.

The 13-year-old was taken into a different room by a 15-year-old boy who forced her to have sex, something the boy admitted doing. His case was handled in the juvenile system and is not public record.

Daisy said she blacked out and doesn't remember much after arriving at the boy's home. Melinda Coleman has said she believes her daughter was given a date-rape drug.

Melinda said she awoke around 5 a.m. to a clawing sound at the front door and found her daughter shivering in subfreezing temperatures. She said she was giving Daisy a bath to warm her up when she noticed signs that she had been assaulted.

The story gained national attention in October after The Kansas City Star published a lengthy account of Daisy's allegations, which the newspaper spent seven months investigating. The case and resulting publicity shook the small college town of Maryville, which was widely criticized on social media, especially by the group Anonymous, for its handling of the case.

The outcry led to a protest on Maryville's courthouse square in which a few hundred people showed up to demonstrate their support for Daisy and lambaste what they labeled as a "rape culture" that allowed the girl's assailant to go unpunished.

Al Jazeera and wire services

Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter