Missouri Lawmakers Respond to Outcry Over Maryville Rape Case

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Photo: J. Stephen Conn

Yesterday, the Internet vigilantes of Anonymous launched a campaign to force authorities in Maryville, Missouri, to revisit the alleged rapes of 14-year-old Daisy Coleman and her 13-year-old friend Paige Parkhurst (who first came forward on Al Jazeera America last evening). "If Maryville won't defend these young girls, if the police are too cowardly or corrupt to do their jobs, if the justice system has abandoned them, then we will have to stand for them," said the hacktivist group's statement. "Mayor Jim Fall, your hands are dirty. Maryville, expect us." The case gained national prominence via a weekend story in the Kansas City Star, which reported that Daisy and Paige were sexually assaulted by two upperclassmen athletes, 17-year-old Matt Barnett and a still unnamed boy, after getting drunk with them at a party. (Daisy, whose assault was allegedly videotaped by 15-year-old Jordan Zech, was left outside her house in freezing weather afterward.) The girls were harassed at school and online, Daisy's family left town, and the charges against the boys were dropped, even though county sheriff Darren White had "no doubt" there had been a crime. But that might change now that Anonymous has threatened to bring the double-edged sword of Steubenville-style attention to Maryville.

On Tuesday evening, a possibly spooked Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder encouraged Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice to convene a grand jury to review the evidence. "Since Sunday I have read with growing dismay the media accounts of the Daisy Coleman case in Nodaway County. I make no claim to knowledge of all the facts. Still, facts revealed in exhaustive media reports, including the 4,000-word piece in the Kansas City Star, raise all kinds of questions that it is now clear won’t be put to rest. These questions will fester and taint the reputation of our state for delivering impartial justice to all," he said in a statement. "I am disappointed that the Attorney General would wash his hands of the matter through a brief statement by a spokesman. The appalling facts in the public record shock the conscience and cry out that responsible authorities must take another look."

Though Koster's office claims it has no power to reopen the case, Missouri House Speaker Timothy Jones issued a statement echoing Kinder's request and arguing, "While our attorney general has already stated he has no authority to intervene in this matter, I firmly believe he is empowered to do so under state statute 27.060. I am calling on him to utilize his authority to intervene in this matter so that we can be confident that justice is served."

Maryville officials also might feel more pressure to act now that Parkhurst has gone public with her identity and account of what happened on the night of January 7, 2012. In her Al Jazeera America interview, Parkhurst recalls that the older boys "just started handing [Daisy] drink after drink after drink. And they had separated us as soon as we got there. And another boy that was there with me, had taken me into another room, and had sexually assaulted me, after me telling him no, pushing him away. And after he was done, he made me go back out into the living room with him, and we sat and waited until Matt was done with Daisy. And I had walked into Matt’s room, and she was incoherent. She couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, and just was talking like a baby pretty much." Paige went on to express confusion and anger over the dropping of the charges against the boys, saying, "I would like justice to be done, and I would like to be able to know that there was something to be done, and that our voice didn’t go unheard." One down, two to go.