Maryville Rape Special Prosecutor: Who Is Jean Peters Baker?
We recently discussed the appointment of Jean Peters Baker as special prosecutor to take over the investigation of the high-profile sexual assault case of Daisy Coleman, the Maryville teen who was allegedly raped by a high school football player and then harassed relentlessly for being a victim.
Here are five facts about Baker that may make a difference in the handling of the case this time around.
- She is no stranger to controversial "icky" cases. At the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office (in the Kansas City area), Baker has worked in nearly every unit, including sex crimes. She spearheaded the prosecution of Bishop Robert Finn, the first Catholic bishop in the country convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse, reports The Washington Post.
- She is a Democrat. Fourth Circuit Associate Judge Glen Dietrich, a fellow Democrat, appointed Baker. Matthew Barnett, the alleged rapist, is the grandson of Rex Barnett. Rex served four terms in the Missouri House of Representatives and allegedly used his political influence to get the sexual assault charges against his grandson dropped, reports The Post. He is a Republican, as is Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert Rice. In a case rife with allegations of local political corruption, Baker's political and geographical distance from Maryville's political scene is significant.
- Baker is a woman who cares about women's issues. Before moving to Kansas City, Baker was an active member of the League of Women Voters. After moving to Kansas City¸ Jean has become very active in the Women´s Political Caucus (WPC)¸ holding numerous board positions. She also served as the leader of the Kansas City office of the Sue Shear Institute, a bi-partisan organization dedicated to recruiting women to run for office and get more involved in government and public policy. Fun politico-feminist factoid: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) hired Baker more than 15 years ago as an intern when McCaskill was the first woman elected Jackson County prosecutor.
- She is an advocate for victims of rape and sexual assault. Beyond her involvement in an array of women's rights issues, Baker serves on the Board of Directors for the Kansas City Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault. Compare that factoid to Nodaway County Sheriff Darren White, who told the The Kansas City Star, "I guess they're just going to have to get over it" in discussing the Colemans and the charges that were dropped, according to The Post.
- Baker is an advocate for children, too. What she said following Bishop Finn's sentencing: "All of us are responsible for the protection of children. None of us should ever place on a child the responsibility for their own safety. That's our job. That's a leader's job."
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