DORA, N.M. (KRQE) - A middle school basketball coach accused of raping one of her players may be off the hook because of a prosecutor's mistake.
Tori Varnell said she was 13 years old when her track and basketball coach, Amber Shaw, manipulated her into having sex.
The case was set to go to trial this year. Now, it might not be tried at all.
"I feel like I've been a victim of the system," Varnell, now 21, said.
Varnell was in seventh grade at Dora Schools near Clovis when she says Shaw started a sexual relationship with her.
"I just kind of came to terms that what happened was wrong - that it did actually affect my life and that it was actually abuse," she said. "So I came forward July 10, 2010."
Shaw was indicted on rape charges because of Varnell's age.
Shaw's defense attorney, Kari Morrissey - who maintains her clients innocence - filed a motion for some evidence.
When the state didn't respond to that, Morrissey filed a motion to have the case dismissed.
"The only person who was asking for anything was the defense and the state was staying silent," said Morrissey. "The state never did what they were supposed to do and file that response in opposition."
In January, Judge Teddy Hartley dismissed the case without a hearing. Hartley listed the state's failure to file paperwork as one of the main reasons for dismissal.
"I mean, I just felt like someone should be fighting for me from the state and I just felt like that's just the opposite of what they were doing, that nobody - the DA, any of the judges, nobody was actually fighting on my behalf."
The prosecutor from the DA's office on the case, Michael Sanchez, declined to talk to KRQE News 13.
"Bottom line is he should have filed a written response, period," said Sanchez' boss at the time, District Attorney Matthew Chandler. "That's been addressed with the assigned prosecutor and handled internally as a personnel matter."
The state has now appealed the district court's ruling to dismiss the case.
Victim advocate Jennifer Wernersbach says that still doesn't explain why the state failed to file the paperwork in the first place.
"They totally dropped the ball and it's really unclear why," she said. "There's no excuse for not responding to motions, at all."
She says the judge's decision to dismiss the case without a hearing was also extreme.
"I've never seen a case of this nature not heard on the merits before it was dismissed," she said. "It's rare that these cases get dismissed short of trial."
It could take up to a year for the court to make a decision on the appeal.
Shaw quit her coaching job before she was charged and moved to Texas.
Varnell has also filed a civil suit against Shaw, Dora School District, and Superintendent Steve Barron. Barron did not return calls and emails for comment.
A magistrate judge issued an opinion that there may be an issue with the statute of limitations. Varnell's lawyers plan to fight that ruling.
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