(Maryville) -- Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice has asked Missouri Associate Circuit Judge Glen Dieterich to appoint a special prosecuting attorney to conduct an independent review of the Daisy Coleman rape case.
That announcement came Wednesday afternoon in a specially called press conference on the west side of the Nodaway County Courthouse.
Rice says last night while viewing a program on CNN four of the State's witnesses in the case declared their willingness to cooperate with the State's case and testify in court. Rice says until the interview last night, the witnesses never contacted him to say that they changed their minds to testify in court after having invoked their 5th Amendment privilege under oath in a deposition.
Rice told reporters at the 5 p.m. news conference, “The public trust in our criminal justice system must be upheld at all times."
Rice has been under intense pressure since an article in Sunday's edition of the Kansas City Star the alleged sexual assault of Daisy Coleman in January of last year.
Matthew Barnett, the grandson of a former State legislator, was originally charged in the matter, but those felony charges were dropped two months later. Rice denied any political influence played into his decision and he was visibly angry at the Wednesday press conference when asked to comment on that allegation.
“My name was dragged through the mud in that article and I don’t appreciate it,” he said.
“I’ve spent my entire life trying to work as hard as I can to do the right thing all the time, and then someone can throw out a couple of baseless rumors that makes everybody think that I’m a crook.
“I’m telling you what, that makes me mad. It’s not true. It never was true.”
No timetable was given reporters regarding Judge Dieterich's appointment of the special prosecutor in this case.
As the press conference was winding down, the mother of the accused rapist, Shirley Barnett, approached the podium and very firmly stated threats were being made against members of the community and those threats "need to stop". She abruptly left the podium and refused to take questions from any of the dozens of assembled reporters.
Then a short time later, a brief press conference was held at Maryville City Hall featuring City Manager Greg McDanel, Mayor Jim Fall and Public Safety Director Keith Wood. Only McDanel addressed the legion of reporters and he read from a prepared statement.
"Officials in the City of Maryville support the decision of Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert Rice to seek the assistance of a special prosecutor to review evidence in the Coleman sexual assault case.
The case fell under County jurisdiction, sheriff and prosecutor since it came to light in January of 2012. However, in recent weeks, the City has received a great deal of negative attention related to the fact that the charges were dropped in the case.
Every day that goes by without further judicial action or explanation is detrimental to the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Maryville.
This was an unfortunate incident that has cast a shadow over the community. With an independent review of the facts, we can hopefully find some resolution to this case that will allow for healing of all parties involved.
On Monday evening, the mother of one of the alleged victims expressed her desire publicly on CNN to have the case re-opened and stated the intent to cooperate with investigators. The City asks for the community's and their critics' cooperation as the judicial system moves forward with the case. In light of recent threats made towards the City, Public Safety patrols have increased and will remain in place until such time that their presence is not deemed necessary."