No Sexual Assault Charge Filed, Matthew Barnett Pleads Guilty to Endangerment
(MARYVILLE, Mo.) -- The controversy surrounding a two-year-old rape allegation by Maryville, Mo., teen Daisy Coleman was resolved Thursday following an afternoon hearing in which the court accepted suspect Matthew Barnett's guilty plea to a misdemeanor child endangerment charge, the Kansas City Star reported. Prosecutors had been considering a more serious sexual assault charge, but said Thursday that the evidence was insufficient to support the felony indictment.
According to the Kansas City Star, the special prosecutor, Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker, filed the endangerment charge Thursday morning before Barnett's hearing.
"Matthew Barnett accepts full responsibility for the conduct in the Information. We are pleased that the court accepted Mr. Barnett's misdemeanor plea and the agreement of the parties," J.R. Hobbs and David Bell, attorneys for Barnett, said Thursday after the hearing, in a statement provided to ABC News.
"To be clear, the misdemeanor charge to which Mr. Barnett pled guilty accurately reflects the conduct for which he should be held accountable. Two highly-skilled prosecutors from two different jurisdictions have now independently concluded that felony charges are not appropriate in this matter," the statement continued.
The court hearing and announcement comes days after Coleman, who is now 16, tried to commit suicide.
The girl's mother said on her Facebook page that Daisy was hospitalized over the weekend after a suicide attempt. In the Facebook post, Melinda Moeller Coleman said her daughter was "very messed up mentally."
"My daughter has been terrorized to the point she tried to kill herself last night. She may never be ok," Melinda Coleman said.
Daisy Coleman was 14 when she claims she snuck out of her house with another girl in January 2012 to meet a group of older boys. The girls claim they were forced to drink something that made them very drunk.
Daisy accused Barnett, then a 17-year-old high school senior and the grandson of a former state representative, of raping her and dropping her off, while drunk, on her family's doorstep in the freezing cold.
The case garnered national attention in October 2013 when the Kansas City Star reported on the allegations and a prosecutor's decision to drop the charges against Barnett. The girl and her family say they were harassed and intimidated by members of the community.
The state at the time appointed Baker to be a special prosecutor to re-investigate the case.
Barnett's attorneys said Thursday that the now 19-year-old teen "regrets the actions to which he has pled guilty," but that he wishes to fulfill the terms of the plea agreement and bring closure to the matter.
The identities of alleged sex assault victims are generally not published, but Coleman's family has gone public with her identity and her accusations.
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