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Internet Rallies Around Alleged Maryville Sexual-Assault Victim

A seven-month investigation by the Kansas City Star into an alleged sexual assault by a high school football player in a small Missouri town has set the Internet ablaze this week, attracting the attention of some of the state's top lawmakers.

Back in January 2012, a 14-year-old freshman cheerleader named Daisy Coleman was allegedly sexually assaulted by Matthew Barnett, a senior high school football player at Maryville High School, according to the Star's report. Coleman's 13-year-old best friend was also allegedly sexually assaulted that night by a 15-year-old at the same party, the paper reported. (The paper doesn't typically name alleged victims of abuse, but Coleman's mother gave permission to use her name in the report.)

Coleman's friend, Paige Parkhurst, spoke to Al Jazeera's "America Tonight" this week about what happened that night:

"Me and a friend, she lived in Maryville. I didn't see her very often. I actually went to Maryville for the night to see her. We were just kind of having a fun time, catching up, all of that, and she had been texting a guy named Matt Barnett, and he wanted us to hang out with him. So we snuck out and went to hang out with him.

And we got there, and they just started handing her drink after drink after drink. And they had separated us as soon as we got there. And another boy that was there with me, had taken me into another room, and had sexually assaulted me, after me telling him no, pushing him away. And after he was done, he made me go back out into the living room with him, and we sat and waited until Matt was done with Daisy. And I had walked into Matt's room, and she was incoherent. She couldn't walk, couldn't talk, and just was talking like a baby pretty much."

Barnett was initially arrested and served with a felony charge of sexual assault and a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child, per the Star. He reportedly admitted having sex with Coleman to the Nodaway County Sheriff's Office and said he was aware that she had been drinking that night, although he claimed the sex was consensual. Another 17-year-old student-athlete at the party, Jordan Zech, was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor for allegedly recording Coleman and Barnett on his iPhone.

Sheriff Darren White told the paper that by the time his department wrapped up its investigation, he "felt confident the office had put together a case that would 'absolutely' result in prosecutions."

Those prosecutions never came to fruition, however. The felony counts for both Barnett and Zech were dropped roughly two months after the incident for lack of evidence, the paper reported.

Since the Star's report came out on Oct. 12, the case has received renewed attention, both locally and nationally. Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder released a statement yesterday urging the state's attorney general and the local prosecutor to revisit Coleman's case.

"I am disappointed that the Attorney General would wash his hands of the matter through a brief statement by a spokesman. The appalling facts in the public record shock the conscience and cry out that responsible authorities must take another look. I call on Attorney General [Chris] Koster and Prosecutor [Robert] Rice to join me in asking that the Circuit Court convene a grand jury to review all the evidence, hear all witnesses, and issue a decision as to whether charges should ensue."

Many in the Maryville community turned against Coleman after the news of her allegations began to spread, but the Internet has come to her defense in recent days. The hacktivist group Anonymous released a statement on Monday announcing the launch of #OpMaryville, demanding "an immediate investigation into the handling by local authorities of Daisy's case." The hashtag #JusticeForDaisy has also picked up significant steam on Twitter in recent days.

Earlier this year, Anonymous' promotion of the Steubenville rape case helped it gain national attention. This Maryville case could already be well on its way to a similar fate.

Since this message clearly hasn't reached all youth-athletes yet, let's end this with a word to the wise: 

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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