TODAY

TODAY   |  January 10, 2014

Rape charges dropped against Matthew Barnett

The 19-year-old former Missouri high school football player pleaded guilty to child endangerment for having what he says was consensual sex with a 14-year-old before dropping her off in front of her home. Some are saying the man’s political connections played a role in the charges being dropped. NBC’s Ron Mott reports.

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>>> an update now on a story that got widespread attention when prosecutors in missouri dropped rape charges against a popular high school football player from a politically connected family. the latest this morning from nbc's ron mott.

>> reporter: for much of the past two years daisy coleman and her family contend she had been raped by a classmate. an allegation that divided the town of maryville and triggered outrage beyond the city limits . but on thursday, barnette pleaded misdemeanor child endangerment for what he says was consensual sex with then 14-year-old coleman before dropping her off at her house late at night .

>> our analysis was after a long trial and after very possibly further dividing of community, we were going to end up with a misdemeanor conviction of what we have right now.

>> reporter: in a statement, coleman says she's grateful barnette took responsibility and that the incident will not define her. his four-month jail sentence was suspe suspended, was initially charged with sexual assault, but the prosecutor dropped the case.

>> mr. barnette truly regrets the actions to which he has pled guilty. he'll now focus on fulfilling the terms of his plea agreement.

>> the colemans eventually moved after what they say was persistent bullying. ron mott, nbc news, chicago.