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US teen rape case to be reopened after outcry

October 17, 2013

MARYVILLE, Missouri (AP) — A 14-year-old U.S. girl who says she was raped by an older boy from her school could get another chance to bring the case to court after a prosecutor criticized for his handling of the case asked that a special prosecutor review the allegations.

The girl’s mother, Melinda Coleman, claims justice was denied when prosecutor Robert Rice dropped felony charges in March 2012, two months after she says her daughter was plied with alcohol, raped, then dumped on the family’s front porch in sub-freezing temperatures. She said her daughter’s 13-year-old friend was raped by another boy the same evening.

Rice has asked that a special prosecutor be appointed to decide if new charges should be filed.

The case in the small Missouri town of Maryville has drawn comparisons to one in Steubenville, Ohio, where two 17-year-old high school football players were convicted of raping a girl after an alcohol-fueled party in 2012. The case was furiously debated online and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the city’s celebrated football team.

Rice insists the investigation collapsed after the Colemans became uncooperative with investigators. He said Wednesday that he stood by his earlier statements about the case but was asking for a special prosecutor because of recent media stories that questioned the integrity of his county’s justice system.

Coleman says she and her daughter did cooperate and that investigators didn’t do enough to push the case forward. She says the family was forced to move from Maryville after they were harassed over the allegations.

The case generated new attention and an outpouring of responses on social media following an investigation by the Kansas City Star newspaper.

The Star’s story described a town where many appeared to be closing ranks around the accused and suggesting the girls were somehow responsible for the incident. In April, after the family had moved, the family’s home in Maryville was damaged in a fire, though a cause has not been determined.

The Associated Press does not generally name victims of sexual assault but is naming the Coleman and her daughter because they have been granting public interviews about the case. The AP is not naming the accused boys because there are no active charges against them.

A county judge is expected to appoint the special prosecutor.

The incident happened in January 2012, after Coleman’s daughter, Daisy, and a 13-year-old friend left the Colemans’ house in the middle of the night to meet some boys.

Daisy said the boys gave her alcohol and she doesn’t remember much of what happened next. Another 17-year-old allegedly videotaped the incident involving Daisy on a cellphone. The 13-year-old girl also said she was forced to have sex with a 15-year-old. The boys said the sex was consensual.

The 15-year-old was charged in the juvenile system. Charges against the 17-year-old accused of recording the incident were also dropped in March 2012.

Melinda Coleman did not return phone calls seeking comment after Rice announced he would ask for a special prosecutor. But in an interview with The Associated Press earlier Wednesday, Coleman insisted she would help investigators in any way she could, even if the case never made it to trial.

Coleman said her daughter made some mistakes, but that she was still the victim.

Robert Sundell, who earlier represented the teen accused of assaulting Daisy, was out of the office Wednesday and didn’t return phone messages. In a statement Tuesday, Sundell said his former client cooperated with the investigation and freely admitted to the sexual encounter. He said that while many may find his former client’s behavior “reprehensible,” the legal issue was whether a crime was committed.