Special prosecutor to look at Mo. sex assault case
MARYVILLE, Mo. – A northwest Missouri prosecutor said Wednesday that he’s asking for a special prosecutor to look at the case of a 14-year-old girl who says she was plied with alcohol and raped by a 17-year-old acquaintance.
The announcement from Nodaway County prosecutor Robert Rice came amid increased scrutiny in recent days over how he handled the case.
Melinda Coleman, the mother of 14-year-old Daisy Coleman, claims justice was denied when Rice dropped felony charges against the 17-year-old boy last March, two months after Coleman found her daughter passed out on the family’s front porch in below-freezing temperatures. The mother also has said the family had to move from the small town of Maryville because of harassment over the allegations.
The county sheriff and Rice have insisted their investigation collapsed after the Colemans became uncooperative with investigators and refused to answer questions. Coleman says she and her daughter did cooperate and that investigators didn’t do enough to push the case forward.
Rice stood behind his earlier statements at a news conference Wednesday but said he was asking a court to appoint a special prosecutor because of publicity surrounding the case and recent media stories questioning the integrity of the justice system in the county. Rice said the special prosecutor will investigate the case and decide whether charges will be refiled.
The incident happened last January, after Daisy and a 13-year-old friend left the Colemans’ house in the middle of the night to meet some boys.
Daisy’s 13-year-old friend also said she was forced to have sex with a 15-year-old, while another 17-year-old allegedly recorded the incident on a cellphone. The 15-year-old was charged in the juvenile system. Charges against the 17-year-old who allegedly videotaped the incident were also dropped last March.
Daisy said the boys gave her alcohol and she doesn’t remember much of what happened next. The boys said the sex was consensual.
Rice has said there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue the charges because the accusers had stopped cooperating and asserted their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Rice said Wednesday that he had been concerned about the Colemans’ decision and so he had asked that they assert their Fifth Amendment right under oath in a deposition. He said he couldn’t release the deposition because it’s a closed record.
Asked to speculate on the accusers’ reasoning, Rice said, “I can’t go into their minds. I don’t know. I can tell you this: We were very careful, very deliberate to make sure that they recorded that there was no misunderstanding, that they understood that at that time when they invoked their Fifth Amendment right that by doing so was going to force the dismissal of the case, that they understood that.”