Daisy Coleman rape case: Matthew Barnett pleads guilty to child endangerment

Daisy Coleman says she was raped when she was 14, but her accused attacker was never charged. Photo: CNN/Coleman family

MARYVILLE, Mo. (CNN) - In a case that grabbed national headlines, a Missouri teenager pleaded guilty Thursday misdemeanor child endangerment after originally being accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl.

Matthew Barnett, 19, entered the plea Thursday at the Nodaway County Courthouse to charges that he left Daisy Coleman outside drunk, freezing and not wearing a jacket last January.

The plea spared Barnett facing charges on the claims that he raped Coleman after a night of drinking.

Barnett and several friends from Maryville High School were accused of getting Coleman and a young teenage friend drunk at a house party before assaulting her

However, authorities declined to press rape charges against Barnett, saying that no victim had come forward - a claim Coleman and her family have steadfastly denied.

"The misdemeanor charge which Mr. Barnett pled guilty (to) accurately reflects the conduct for which he should be held accountable," his attorney, Jay R. Hobbs, said.

Barnett was sentenced to two years probation and will not spend any time behind bars. His case sparked a national outcry, and after a special investigator was assigned to the case, she says the justice system worked.

"My job is to analyze evidence," special prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said. "In this case, there was insufficient evidence to go forward on a sexual assault."

Daisy's family claimed the real reason that Barnett wasn't charged stemmed from his political ties; his grandfather was a popular four-term state representative. Meanwhile, the Coleman family was run out of town after Daisy was bullied at school.

Instead of going to court, Daisy and her mother stayed home, saying that she felt that the prosecutor did the best she could. She maintained, though, that political power was at play in the original investigation.

"I am grateful that the defendant took responsibility by pleading guilty to the charges," Daisy said in a prepared statement. "I am ready to move forward."