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The Anonymous hacktivist collective has launched "#OpMaryville" to highlight the case of two girls, ages 13 and 14, who were both allegedly raped last year in Maryville, Mo. But despite a plethora of evidence, including iPhone footage of one of the alleged assaults and confessions from three suspects in the case, the charges against the 14-year-old girl's alleged attacker were dropped.
The Kansas City Star reported that the 17-year-old who confessed to having sex with the 14-year-old girl is the grandson of a Missouri state representative who previously worked as a Missouri State Highway Patrol officer for 32 years.
That information has only intensified calls for the case to be reopened -- including from Anonymous. "We demand an immediate investigation into the handling by local authorities of [the] case," according to a statement released Monday by the hacktivist group. "Why was a suspect, who confessed to a crime, released with no charges?"
Maryville is located about 100 miles north of Kansas City, in Nodaway County.
[ It can take years to indict hacktivists. See Operation Payback: Feds Charge 13 On Anonymous Attacks . ]
"If Maryville won't defend these young girls, if the police are too cowardly or corrupt to do their jobs, if justice system has abandoned them, then someone else will have to stand for them," according to an Anonymous -- #OpMaryville video released Monday. "Mayor Jim Fall, your hands are dirty. Maryville, expect us," it said.
Focus on the case has been growing since Saturday, when The Kansas City Star published the results of its own, months-long investigation. The 14-year-old's mother spoke with the newspaper as part of her effort to get the case reopened. That article kicked off a maelstrom of support for the girl.
"Few dispute the basic facts of what happened in the early morning hours of Jan. 8, 2012: A high school senior had sex with [the mother's] 14-year-old daughter, another boy did the same with her daughter's 13-year-old friend, and a third student video-recorded one of the bedding scenes. Interviews and evidence initially supported the felony and misdemeanor charges that followed," The Star reported. "Yet, two months later, the Nodaway County prosecutor dropped the felony cases against the youths, one the grandson of a longtime area political figure."
Sheriff Darren White, who led the related investigation, told The Star that he thought that the confessions and evidence gathered after the two girls were taken to a hospital -- where they were later interviewed one-on-one by a captain from Nodaway County Sheriff's office -- would "absolutely" lead to prosecutions. "Within four hours, we had obtained a search warrant for the house and executed that," White said. "We had all of the suspects in custody and had audio/video confessions."
In short order, the 17-year-old boy was arrested and charged with sexual assault, which is a felony. He was also charged with endangering a minor, for leaving the 14-year-old outside her house while she was unconscious, during 22-degree weather, on the morning after the alleged rape. Another one of the suspects was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor -- a felony -- for allegedly videotaping the sexual encounter.
According to a sheriff's office report, the 17-year-old boy claimed that he'd had consensual sex with the 14-year-old, and said that she'd been drinking, reported The Star. But under felony statutes, sex can't be defined as consensual if the victim is incapacitated by alcohol, as witnesses have said was the case with the girl.
But the charges against the boy were dropped two months later by Robert Rice, the Nodaway County prosecutor, who reportedly has political ties to the state Representative and grandfather of the 17-year-old.
The 14-tear-old's mother said she's continuing to push for the case to be reopened. "My concern was that some other girls came forward and told me that the same thing had happened to them with the same group of boys," the mother told CNN Monday, where she was interviewed with her daughter, who's reportedly twice attempted to commit suicide since the alleged rape.
The 14-year-old told CNN that said she would testify if the case was reopened.
The Anonymous #OpMaryville campaign follows the hacktivist collective, earlier this year, publicizing the case of a 16-year-old girl from Weirton, W.Va., who said she was raped in August 2012 by two football players from Steubenville, Ohio, who were convicted of that crime in March 2013. But questions persist about whether school officials knew of the alleged rapes and failed to report them, as is required by state law.
Earlier this month, meanwhile, school IT worker William Rhinaman, 53, was charged with tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, obstructing official business, as well as perjury, the Guardian reported. Asked if more arrests would occur as part of the alleged cover-up, "the only thing I can [say] is that the grand jury investigation continues," Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine said last week.
Some commentators have accused Anonymous of going too far by singling out entire towns such as Maryville and Steubenville.
"On a personal note as one who wrote extensively about the Steubenville teen rape case and one who attended rallies in Steubenville, Ohio (no [I'm] not a member of Anonymous) [I've] seen the good and the bad side of this sort of thing and would urge that we all learn from what happened there," said Holly Briley on True Crime Talk. "While everyone wants justice for victims, it shouldn't come at the price of targeting an entire town."