After news coverage of a rape case in the small town of Maryville, Mo., exploded last weekend, the town's sheriff—strongly condemned by the family of 14-year-old Daisy Coleman, who says she was raped by the town's star football player—has come forward to deny allegations of a mishandled case.

The Kansas City Star reported over the weekend that prosecutors, citing a lack of evidence, had dropped charges against the player—and member of a prominent family—who allegedly raped Coleman while she was drunk. The Colemans, who had recently moved to Maryville, were reportedly threatened and felt compelled to move back to their old town. Their Maryville house burned down under mysterious circumstances in April.

Mounting pressure on the county to reconsider the case—even the state's lieutenant governor has urged a higher court to look into it—has put county prosecutor Robert Rice on the defensive. In a statement released Tuesday, Rice claimed that prosecution couldn't continue because witnesses "invoked their 5th Amendment privilege to not testify," according to the Los Angeles Times. County Sheriff Darren White backed him up, saying that "it was only when the victims refused to cooperate and assist in this case that he ultimately had to drop the case."

Not so, say victim Daisy Coleman and her mother. While White claims that Coleman pled the fifth twice before the charges were dropped, her mother says quite the opposite: that Coleman refused to sign a contract saying she planned to invoke her right against self-incrimination. “We did not refuse to testify with the felony case, we were not given any information about it, and we were not asked to testify" before the case was dropped altogether, Coleman's mother told the Times.

Already the case is reminiscent of last year's events in Steubenville, Ohio. But there's yet another similarity, one that could cause trouble: Anonymous, the loose collective of hackers, has thrown its support behind the Colemans. The group has already tweeted the number of Rice's office, planned a protest outside the courthouse and allegedly attempted to infiltrate the Sheriff Department's computer server. True to their reputation, members have also reportedly harassed county officials and friends of the accused.

But while White acknowledged that Anonymous is "a credible threat," he has just one thing to say: "They all need to get jobs and quit living with their parents."

[image via Wikipedia]