The mother of an ex-football player accused of raping a teen in a case that’s attracted international attention said her son is being “assassinated.”
Matthew Barnett, now 19, was charged in January 2012 in connection with the alleged rape of 14-year-old Daisy Coleman, but the prosecuting attorney later dropped felony charges against him and a 17-year-old friend, Jordan Zech, who was accused of recording the encounter on cell phone video.
Barnett’s parents told The Daily Mail their son had been harassed at the University of Missouri after the hacktivist group Anonymous had revealed his name and posted his photo online as it pressured local authorities to reopen the investigation.
“He’s having some major issues,” said Shirley Barnett, a teacher. “Is Matthew OK? How can you go through this and be OK? You can’t go through this experience and be OK. You can’t have your picture plastered all over the world news and be portrayed as something when you know in your heart what happened and be OK. How can anybody in our family be OK over this?”
Nodaway Prosecutor Robert Rice agreed Thursday to ask a judge to appoint a special prosecutor in the case after Missouri’s lieutenant governor and House Speaker got involved.
Rice defended his decision to drop the charges, saying Coleman and a 13-year-old friend who said she was raped by a 15-year-old boy declined to testify.
But Coleman’s mother said Rice pressured her daughter into invoking her Fifth Amendment rights not to testify.
Barnett’s mother said the media had chosen sides in the case after Coleman and her mother came forward to discuss it in a Kansas City Star report published Sunday.
“This whole thing is one-sided because that is the way they have chosen it to be,” Shirley Barnett said.
Coleman admits that she and a friend had been drinking the night of Jan. 8, 2012, before meeting up with Barnett, Zech and a juvenile, with whom they continued drinking until she blacked out.
And investigators said Barnett admitted to having sex with the girl, although he said the act was consensual.
Coleman was found the following morning partially clothed on the front lawn of her family’s home in freezing cold weather.
Rice said the cell phone video of the encounter was deleted and could not be retrieved by crime lab investigators, and he said the most serious charges were dropped because his office didn’t have enough evidence to convict without the girls’ testimony.
Shirley Barnett claimed there was information that would prove her son’s version of events, but she declined to be specific.
“The more you dig, you will get closer to the truth,” she said. “It is not on the surface, you’re going to have to dig for it, unfortunately, we can’t help with that because that is not our personality.”
Shirley Barnett said her son and others from Maryville had been threatened online and required protection.
“I am here to talk about the people of this town that have been threatened, that do not feel safe to come to their jobs, they don’t feel safe to go to school, there’s campuses across the state where students are having to be walked to class and having to be escorted because of their safety,” Shirley Barnett said. “That needs to stop. It’s not fair to those people. They have no relationship whatsoever to this case; they have no knowledge of the case, but because they’re from a small town, they’re being threatened, and that needs to stop.”
Coleman also claimed she was threatened after the boys were charged, and the harassment continued even after the felony charges were dropped.
Her mother said some girls started an online campaign urging the teen to take her own life.
Coleman’s family eventually moved from Maryville, and their house burned to the ground due to undetermined causes while they tried to sell it.
Watch this video interview with Shirley Barnett posted on The Herald Sun: