Criminal Justice

Dropped rape case against high-school athlete to be reopened after newspaper investigation

A special prosecutor will re-examine a dropped sexual assault case involving high-school athletes after the Kansas City Star published the results of its seven-month investigation of the incident and its aftermath.

The alleged rape victims in Maryville, Mo., were girls aged 14 and 13, according to the investigative report by the Kansas City Star. They said they were raped after they snuck out late at night in January 2012 to attend a party where there was underage drinking. Melinda Coleman, the mother of one of the alleged victims, found her daughter lying nearly unconscious on her front porch in freezing weather; the other was in a bedroom of the home.

Police originally charged a 17-year-old high-school football player with the rape of Coleman’s daughter and accused another 17-year-old football player and wrestler of filming part of the incident. A 15-year-old accused of raping the 13-year-old girl was sent to the juvenile court system. The boys maintained the sex was consensual.

Then in March 2012, the prosecutor dropped the most serious charges, citing insufficient evidence and lack of cooperation by the Coleman family. Melissa Coleman says the family did cooperate and will continue to do so.

The 17-year-old teen accused of rape is the grandson of a longtime member of the Missouri House of Representatives.

“The incident sparked outrage in the community,” the Kansas City Star says, “though the worst of it was directed not at the accused perpetrators but at a victim and her family. In the months that followed, Coleman lost her job, and her children were routinely harassed. When it became too much, they left.” In April 2013, after they moved 40 miles away, their unoccupied house in Maryville burned down.

The Los Angeles Times has a story on the Star’s report and the reaction; the Associated Press has a story on the appointment of the special prosecutor.

Coleman told the Los Angeles Times that the harassment included a Twitter campaign against her daughter and the other alleged victim, waged by a sister of one of the boys. “They were making a game of trying to get the girls to commit suicide,” she said.

Her daughter has twice attempted suicide and she talked about her problems in a radio station interview. “You’re the s-word, you’re the w-word … b-word. Just, after a while, you start to believe it,” she said.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.