In Maryville, The Case Stays Closed
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
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Two years after allegations of rape divided a central Missouri town and gained national attention, a special prosecutor has concluded her investigation. Today, prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who was brought in from another county, filed a misdemeanor charge against the young man who was accused.
Peggy Lowe, of member station KCUR, has been following this case and joins us from the town Maryville, Mo. And, Peggy, first give us some quick background on this case.
PEGGY LOWE, BYLINE: Well, this case, it's about 2 years old as of yesterday. It was a Saturday night in this small town, Maryville, Mo. We're about 95 miles northeast of Kansas City. And two young girls, 13 and 14, were texting with some boys and they went over to Matthew Barnett's home. They were drinking. And one of the girls - her name is Daisy Coleman - she accused Matthew Barnett of raping her. He said the sex was consensual.
The charges were quickly brought by the local prosecutor. And then just as quickly, just about three months later, they were dropped. And there was never really given an explanation. And so some people believed that perhaps the Barnett's family connection to the local Republican Party was the cause of that. So it was just very controversial.
SIEGEL: Well, tell us about what the special prosecutor did today, and why.
LOWE: Well, it's very interesting. So because of the charge of, you know, a Republican group of people who had wanted these charges to be dropped, a judge - the only Democratic judge in Nodaway County, up here in Missouri - appointed this special prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker. She's out of Kansas City - Jackson County; and she's a Democrat, too.
Basically, she completely went back and redid the entire investigation. And what she came up with was a plea bargain for Matthew Barnett. He is now 19. He pled guilty today to a misdemeanor charge of child endangerment - because after this one-hour party at his parents' home, he basically dumped a very drunk, incoherent Daisy Coleman on her mother's front porch in freezing temperatures, and just left her there without a coat, without shoes. And so he pled guilty to that today.
SIEGEL: And was the young man - Matthew Barnett - was he present today in all this?
LOWE: Yes, he was. He's a 19-year-old college student from a local town. And he was there, clad in a tie; and very politely said yes, sir and no, sir to the judge. And his parents were with him as well.
SIEGEL: I understand that his probation includes some special circumstances. What are those?
LOWE: There are seven special considerations that Peters Baker gave us today. He can't drink alcohol, he can't have any contact with the victim or her family; he has community service. You know, those are the kinds of things that you hear about - drug testing. And something that Peters Baker said today that she absolutely insisted upon was his public acknowledgment of wrongdoing, and that he apologize to the victim. And then, apparently that has already taken place. And so she said she was happy about that.
SIEGEL: And reaction from the victim to this decision today?
LOWE: Peters Baker read a statement from Daisy Coleman today. She said she was grateful that he actually took responsibility - that Matthew Barnett took responsibility for this. And she believes it's time to move forward. That said, Robert, she is still really dealing with the fallout from this. Just this last weekend, she attempted suicide for the third time, and she remains in a Kansas City hospital.
SIEGEL: OK. Thank you, Peggy. That's reporter Peggy Lowe of member station KCUR, speaking with us from Maryville, Mo.
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