Robert Sundell, an attorney in Maryville, offered the response following the recent media attention surrounding the case and the outrage over the dropped charges last year.
Sundell named Matthew Barnett in the release, one the teens originally charged in the case. Barnett and another teen were accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old and 13-year-old girl during a party while a third teen captured video on his cell phone.
The case drew national attention this week after an investigative article was published in the Kansas City Star. State lawmakers and other groups have since called for a closer look at the case.
Here is the full release from Sundell:
On behalf of Matthew Barnett, I have been asked to respond to a recent story in the Kansas City Star published October 13, 2013. On January 8, 2012, Matt was alleged to have sexually assaulted a 14 year old girl. A felony charge of sexual assault was filed January 9, 2012. The allegation was that Matt Barnett had sexual intercourse with somebody that was incapacitated.
Per Missouri statutes, no statutory charges would have been available based on the ages of Matt and the alleged victim. Mr. Barnett cooperated with the investigation and freely admitted to the sexual encounter. While many find Matt Barnett's behavior reprehensible, the legal issue was whether a crime was committed.
Subsequent investigation and interviews raised substantial doubt about the felony charge, specifically including whether the young lady was incapacitated during the encounter. It should be noted that all of the reports used in the Kansas City Star article were those selectively released by the complainant's family. Missouri statute §610.105 RSMo. prohibits the release of closed records by law enforcement officials.
While charges were pending, counsel for the defendant sought to take the depositions of the accusers and others. This is a right constitutionally guaranteed to all accused. After being sworn under oath, the accusers and family members refused to answer any questions citing their Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate themselves. Accordingly, without competent evidence and with witnesses unwilling to testify, the State was under a duty to dismiss any prosecution when it became apparent that a conviction was not possible.
The State continued to pursue the misdemeanor charge of child endangerment, the allegation being that Mr. Barnett left a 14 year old in an incapacitated condition outside of her home in freezing weather. Matt and others in the car disputed this claim. In July 2012, counsel for Mr. Barnett again requested depositions of the alleged victim and her mother. 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. Thereafter, the misdemeanor charge was dismissed.
Since a legal conviction was not possible, it appears some would like to try the case in the court of public opinion. The Barnett family has since received numerous threats and would request you respect their privacy.