Thus far, many of the major issues in the Maryville, MO rape case have been attributed by the Coleman family as the fault of Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert Rice. Well on Wednesday, Kansas City local news station KCTV reported that Rice had asked the judge to promote a special prosecutor to the case because "the public trust in our criminal justice system must be upheld at all times."
Rice's words came after several higher level officials, including Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder and state Senator Kurt Schaefer, had suggested the case be reopened and investigated. During a press conference, Rice said it was the CNN interview where the Colemans declared they'd talk was the first he'd heard of it, and stood by his previous assertion that the reason the case was closed before was because the family had invoked their 5th amendment right not to testify. According to Rice, they understood the case would be dismissed if they didn't talk, but as that records is closed and not available to the public, he can't reveal the contents of that deposition.
'Their cooperation was not there. At the end of the day, I figured that this was going to become an issue," he said to a slew of reporters. "Trust me this, I'm standing in front of you today honestly wishing I could hand each and every one of you the documents."
The Colemans don't deny that the deposition exists, but say that the day after making it, they changed their minds. Melinda Coleman told the Kansas City Star, "that she didn’t want to put her daughter through the anguish of reliving the incident with only a misdemeanor charge at stake." She said yet again that this was "only after the two felony charges — sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a minor — were dropped on March 13, 2012" and that Rice did not return her phone calls.
Again, Rice disagrees. "I went out of my way to keep them in the loop...at some point, they stopped returning our phone calls," he said.
When asked about allegations that he was involved with getting the case dropped, Rice spoke very candidly:
It's absolutely crap. I'm just going to be honest with you. My name was dragged through the mud in that article and I don't appreciate it. The assertion was made based off of rumor and I don't care one bit that I spent my entire life trying to work as hard as I can all the time, and that someone can throw out a couple of baseless rumors that makes everybody think that I'm a crook. And I'm telling you what, that makes me mad.
He also thanked Sheriff Darren White and expressed sympathy for all that he'd been through this week.
Matthew Barnett's lawyer has also released a statement, saying that the Colemans lied during one of their depositions after the felony charges were dropped:
This time the complaining witness did testify with numerous inconsistencies and changes to previous statements. When the alleged victim’s mother was questioned about these changes, she freely admitted that her daughter does not always tell the truth, particularly when she is in a stressful situation.
As for the town of Maryville, Anonymous-driven harassment has not stopped. On Wednesday, the Maryville Daily Forum reported that police had increased patrols and tried to add protection for some individuals, likely the Barnett family, which has said they've been receiving threats. City manager Greg McDaniel said in a statement, "Every day that goes by without further judicial action or explanation is detrimental to the lives and livelihood of the citizens of Maryville. This was an unfortunate incident that cast a shadow over our community."
And when asked why he thought this case had gotten so much attention, Rice again pointed to Dugan Arnett's Kansas City Star article, saying it "inflamed the passions of persons, inflamed the passions of humanity."
Image via Orlin Wagner/AP