Daisy Coleman's family looks to future after guilty plea - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Daisy Coleman's family looks to future after guilty plea

Melinda Coleman in October 2013 (Associated Press) Melinda Coleman in October 2013 (Associated Press)
Charlie Coleman Charlie Coleman

Daisy Coleman's family is looking to the future after a special prosecutor decided to see a lesser charge rather than a rape charge in a case that has made national headlines.

Both her mother, Melinda Coleman, and older brother Charlie said they are disappointed by the outcome, but appreciate the efforts that Jean Peters Baker, a special prosecutor, put into reviewing the case.

"I just want to put this behind me. I will say that I am not done fighting," Melinda Coleman wrote in an email to KCTV5. "If they think this is a huge victory, they are wrong."

Charlie Coleman said he knows that Baker did the best she could with the investigation that she inherited from a prior prosecutor.

"I don't feel like what we want to happen exactly happened," he said in an exclusive interview with KCTV5's Betsy Webster. "But in the end, it's not going to matter because it's the guy upstairs who has the final decision."

Matthew Barnett, now 19, pleaded guilty on Thursday to a misdemeanor charge of child endangerment. He admitted that he abandoned an intoxicated then 14-year-old Daisy Coleman outside her home in frigid conditions, putting her at physical risk.

He apologized and must pay $1,800 in restitution to Daisy Coleman's family, which will be used to provide mental health counseling for the girl who remains hospitalized after a suicide attempt over the weekend.

Melinda Coleman said they don't know yet the long-term ramifications.

"Daisy seemed pretty good today," she said.

Supporters and Coleman's family had hoped that Barnett would face a charge of sexual assault or rape. Daisy Coleman says Barnett took advantage of her intoxicated state and sexually assaulted her. He maintained that the sex was consensual.

And Daisy Coleman herself in December told investigators that Barnett could have thought the encounter was consensual, according to court documents. That statement made convicting Barnett of a sexual assault charge problematic.

Barnett was a football player and is the grandson of a prominent Republican with extensive ties throughout northwest Missouri. Melinda Coleman believes the initial investigation was tainted, and that made prosecution by Baker difficult.

"I'm just really disappointed and sad," she said about Barnett's misdemeanor conviction. "It's better than nothing. But what angered me was to hear the defense attorney say this proves there was no political ties or favors. I think this shows just the opposite."

Melinda Coleman still believes her daughter was sexually assaulted.

"I honestly believe all four of the boys raped my daughter, but Barnett knew he could get off because of political ties," she said.

J.R. Hobbs, Barnett's defense attorney, said Thursday that there is "absolutely no evidence" that political favoritism occurred.

A second boy went through the juvenile court system over accusations that he sexually assaulted Daisy Coleman's 13-year-old friend during the Jan. 8, 2012, incident.

Melinda Coleman said she is emotionally and physically exhausted over the two-year ordeal.

Charlie Coleman said his mother remains torn up that she didn't protect her daughter. He said his own emotions have evolved in the ensuing months.

He said he was angry, especially because he felt betrayed by his friends.

"I thought I had a great group of friends I could trust," he said.

Now those friendships are ashes.

"It was crushing," he said. "I was mad. I was sad. I was worried for my sister."

Even though the criminal case is over, Charlie Coleman said the pain lingers because he has to face every day knowing what was done to his sister.

"It's not really a finality," he said. "My family is still going to have to go through it."

But he also knows he can't dwell on the past.

"We've got to keep moving forward, and if we want something done, we can't keep looking in the rearview mirror," he said.

He is relying on his faith and believes there are better days ahead for his family and most especially his sister. He said he is focused on her healing and overcoming the burden she has endured. He said he wants her to live a life where she has a smile on her face every day.

"It's just a bump in the road. She has a long life ahead of her, and I am sure it's going to be happy because I really believe in karma and eventually it's going to work in her way," he said.

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