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Hundreds rally in support of alleged rape victim in Maryville, Missouri

By Kevin Murphy

MARYVILLE, Missouri (Reuters) - Several hundred people, many holding daisies, gathered in Maryville, Missouri, on Tuesday for a rally organized by computer hacking group Anonymous to support teenager Daisy Coleman, who was allegedly raped by a high school football player at a party in 2012.

The crowd gathered near the town square where the computer hacker group, along with Justice for Daisy, a Facebook group, called for justice on behalf of Coleman and other rape victims.

"The shear outrageousness of the Daisy Coleman case is what brought us here today," said Courtney Cole, one of the rally organizers, as cold winds whipped around the cheering crowd.

"She is not alone. Every year, thousands of Missourians are raped and sexually assaulted. It is past time for us as a state to change. No more."

A former high school football player is accused of sexually assaulting Coleman, who was 14 at the time, at a party in January 2012. A second teenager is accused of recording the incident on a cellphone.

Nodaway County Prosecutor Bob Rice had filed felony charges against the two boys, who were both 17 at the time, but later dropped them, citing a lack of cooperation from the girl, her mother and other witnesses.

Daisy and her mother, Melinda Coleman, have denied being uncooperative with prosecutors and in several interviews have pressed for the case to be reopened.

The case has attracted national attention after a months-long investigation was published on October 13 in the Kansas City Star.

Anonymous highlighted the case after the newspaper expose, embracing Coleman's cause to put pressure on authorities to bring charges. The group mounted a similar campaign in a rape case that focused attention on the town of Steubenville, Ohio.

Although the rally was launched by Anonymous, the crowd included only a few members wearing masks marking their affiliation with the group. None of them spoke publicly.

"There are so many cases like this that get pushed aside and are not talked about very much," said Jenna Little, 18, who attended the rally. "Maybe if one person opens up, others will get the strength to do it."

Police set up a podium on one corner of the square for counterprotesters, no one showed up.

Pete Hayes, a Maryville resident, said the media has told only Daisy's side of the story.

"It's been blown hugely out of proportion" Hayes said. "Everybody is saying 'Maryville must be a vile place.'"

A new prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker, was appointed by a judge on Monday to re-examine the case. Baker is the Kansas City-based prosecutor for Jackson County, which is about 90 miles south of Maryville.

(Reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Brendan O'Brien)

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