Hactivist Group Seeks Justice in Maryville

7102818657_aee682123eFamous hacker/activist collective Anonymous, known for its online activism and trademark Guy Fawkes mask, has once again shed light on a town overrun by victim blamers.

Last week, Anonymous drew attention to the questionable judicial practices of prosecutors in the Maryville rape case when they released a statement calling for a closer look at the small Nodaway County, Mo., town.

Melinda Coleman found her 14-year-old daughter Daisy lying outside her home in below-freezing weather after Daisy and a 13-year-old friend snuck out one night in January of 2012. Both girls had been raped that night, and cellphone video of the assault began to circulate. The accused were all older boys from the local high school, including football player and grandson of a former Missouri state representative, Matthew Barnett.

Sadly, this family’s story is a familiar one: In the months that followed, the Coleman family found heartache and persecution instead of justice. The boys were charged with felonies–some even admitted to having sex with the intoxicated, underage minors–but all were released and charges dropped. Melinda Coleman was fired from her job without explanation, her children were harassed and her daughter–encouraged by an outpouring of viral bullying (especially from her accused rapist’s sibling)–tried to kill herself. So Melinda packed up her family and moved them 40 miles away. Still, that wasn’t enough for some Maryville citizens: The vacant family home was burned to the ground earlier this month.

Thanks in part to an article by the Kansas City Star, news of what happened in Maryville began to spread until it reached the attention of Anonymous, the computer-nerd collective turned cyber-superhero group. Last Tuesday, the organization released this statement, promising retribution if justice wasn’t served in Maryville and trending at #Justice4Daisy:

We demand an immediate investigation into the handling by local authorities of Daisy’s case. Why was a suspect, who confessed to a crime, released with no charges? How was video and medical evidence not enough to put one of these football players inside a court room? What is the connection of these prosecutors, if any, to Rep. Rex Barnett? Most of all, We are wondering, how do the residents of Maryville sleep at night?

Nodaway County prosecuting attorney Robert L. Rice, who dropped the charges following the arrests of the alleged rapists, announced last Wednesday that he is asking for a court-appointed special prosecutor to take a second look at the facts and possibly re-file charges. This request came the day after the threat from Anonymous and after wide media circulation of interviews with the victim and her family. Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has also made a public appeal for a grand jury investigation into the case, reported CNN.

This isn’t Anonymous’ first foray into social justice. The group famously became involved in the Steubenville Rape Case, publishing photos, videos and messages as well as threatening to reveal the identities of student suspects. They issued similar threats during the Halifax Rape Case in 2011.

Although Internet vigilantism seems to get the job done, why has it become our last recourse for holding our justice system accountable to rape victims? Hopefully, someday we can rely on agents of law enforcement to prosecute rapists, as well as those who would bully and further punish their victims, without assistance from masked cyberheros. Until then, it’s comforting to know that Anonymous–and plenty of outraged feminists–are here to help.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Zack Rees via Creative Commons  

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Melissa McGlensey recently graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.A. in English and Spanish with a minor in creative writing; she is currently interning at Ms.

Comments

  1. Full credit to Anonymous. I will certainly be taking an active interest in their activities from now on.

  2. Johnna Lee-Garcia says:

    Great article. I hope the justice system in that town gets a shot in the arm thanks to Anonymous. As an aside, I hope Ms. McGlensey is paid for the work she does as an intern.

  3. thank you for posting this information. I agree.

  4. Steubenville all over again. Nothing would’ve EVER been done about those pigs except that Anonymous shone the light on that inbred town’s dirty secrets. Keep up the good work, Anonymous. Evidently you’re the only true justice that’s left.

  5. If there were more humans taking action in the light, we wouldn’t have such a rampant problem as rapists being allowed to roam free, or even congress being allowed to rip-off the tax payer.
    Thank Human for Anonymous.

  6. I don’t understand all this teaching girls and women of all ages to be careful – yes, I worry a lot about my grandmother being in a nursing home, because I have heard all sorts of things happening to vulnerable older women. And my mother is in the habit in being overly friendly to strangers, which I worry about as well. But the reality is that rape/sexual assault is premeditated – if it weren’t those specific victims, it would be someone else. What about teaching boys and men not to abuse? I am sick of this boys will be boys attitude – and it extends to boys being allowed to abuse animals as well as women – after all, they just can’t help it, they are boys. I have only once heard a young guy (about 20 years old) say he doesn’t go to clubs because the atmosphere teaches males that women exist just for sex. Yet, women are always told to be careful about going to clubs and parties. Well, I have never been to a club or a drinking party because I don’t approve of the atmosphere. Guess what? A guy chased me while I was walking my dog on my own street, and it’s a middle-class neighborhood. He had just left a club about an hour ago. It’s a waste of time to teach girls/women to be careful and yet not teach boys/men that they are responsible for their behavior. I can’t believe men like Kobe Bryant and Mike Tyson and Woody Allen and Charlie Sheen are heroes for their mistreatment of women. Yes, there is some racism in the media, but that doesn’t make their behavior acceptable. People who have daughters forbid them dressing too sexy and going to clubs and drinking parties (stuff I never cared for anyway), who teaches their sons to behave responsibly? Boys and men are abusing women and animals, but they just can’t help it because they are boys.

  7. I’ve seen some controversy, even in feminist circles, about Anonymous’ involvement. Worries about validity, for instance. But if the facts are there, I’m just happy that help is coming from outside the community when it doesn’t come from inside.

  8. Based on the content of the article, the connection between threats by Anonymous and Robert L. Rice asking for a court-appointed special prosecutor is tenious at best. It is just as likely, if not more likely, that the news coverage was responsible for the change. It is probably best to be cautious in our praise and optimism for “Anonymous”.

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