Surprised no one has mentioned this, but Daisy Coleman, the teenage girl who was sexually assaulted and left outside in freezing weather, may get some justice after all. Earlier this week, Nodaway County prosecutor Robert Rice announced that he will ask a special prosecutor to review the case and determine if new charges need to be filed.
n a news conference outside the county courthouse in Maryville, Rice said he had asked a judge to appoint a special prosecutor in the case.The facts of this case are beyond dispute. Matthew Barnett, then a high school football star, and two of his friends plied Daisy and her friend, Paige Parkhurst, with alcohol before Barnett had sex with Daisy while and a 15-year-old boy had sex with Paige. Barnett's friend, Jordan Zech, recorded the encounter between Barnett and Daisy. They then left a severely intoxicated Daisy out in 22-degree weather. Barnett and the 15-year-old were charged with sexual assault and Zech with sexual exploitation of a minor.
“The public trust in our criminal justice system must be upheld at all times,” he said.
He said he decided to ask for the special prosecutor after witnesses in the case said this week that they would cooperate with the investigation.
“Until that time,” Rice said Wednesday, “the witnesses never told me they were willing to cooperate and testify after they invoked their Fifth Amendment right in a deposition under oath.”
Rice’s account of the witnesses’ cooperation differs from that of Melinda Coleman, mother of one alleged victim, who contended in a story in The Star on Sunday and other media appearances this week that she had willingly spoken with authorities until Rice dropped the two most serious felony charges in March 2012, two months after he’d filed them.
However, only the 15-year-old was ever held to account; he was adjudicated delinquent. The charges against Barnett and Zech were dropped. Rice says it was because the Colemans weren't willing to cooperate, but that seems hard to believe given the despicable way the Colemans were treated. Daisy was subjected to numerous threats, and Melinda was abruptly fired from her job. After the charges were dropped, they were ultimately hounded out of town.
I find it hard to give Rice much credit for his change of heart. I'll never forget this quote from the Kansas City Star's excellent piece on this case--he couldn't prosecute because of information he'd learned about what happened "before, during and after" the case. Translation: Rice was so backwards in his thinking that he thought what happened to Daisy was a case of "kids being kids." Never mind that she was so drunk that according to Paige, she could barely walk or talk. And even if you think this was just a case of "kids being kids," any prosecutor who can let a person get away with leaving another person out in 22-degree weather not only should lose his job, but probably lose his law license as well.
There are some crimes that are so outrageous that they simply have to be prosecuted to the fullest extent legally possible. This is one of them. Hopefully Barnett and Zech will finally have to answer for what they did.
6:24 PM PT: Well, now we have one possible explanation for Rice's change of heart. Yesterday, Melinda Coleman released audio tapes of conversations she had with Rice that seem to prove she did cooperate with authorities. No doubt that she told Rice she had those tapes--and that Rice would have been staring down the barrel of a disbarment hearing if he didn't reopen the case. (h/t to Makhali Overdrive)