Seahawks defend their choice and insist that Frank Clark never struck his then-girlfriend, but the team’s investigators never talked to witnesses.
Two women say they found the girlfriend of Seahawks draft pick Frank Clark sprawled half-naked on her hotel-room floor and barely moving the night of his arrest on charges of domestic violence and assault.
Lis Babson, 44, and Kristie Colie, 43, who were in the room next door with their young daughters at a Sandusky, Ohio, hotel and waterpark resort last November, say they heard loud banging, yelling and screaming coming from Clark’s room. Babson says she immediately sensed something was terribly wrong, ran outside and pounded on the door until Clark opened it.
In an interview with The Seattle Times on Monday, Babson said an enraged Clark tried to quickly slam the door in her face, but she caught it before it could close.
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Colie, who had followed Babson into the hallway, said the woman on the floor inside the room “was definitely beat up” and initially didn’t move.
“She looked unconscious,’’ Colie said. “She looked like she was knocked out, and then she started to move slowly.’’
The two women’s accounts corroborate details in a police report describing the incident involving Clark and his then-girlfriend, Diamond Hurt — and they stand in contrast to statements by Seahawks officials who have had to explain their selection of Clark in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday.
A sought-after defensive end with Michigan just six months ago, Clark was kicked off the team Nov. 17, two days after his arrest.
But the Seahawks made him the 63rd overall pick in the draft, saying team officials had conducted an extensive investigation of their own and felt confident that the 6-foot-2, 277-pound Clark had not struck his girlfriend. The team acknowledged on Monday that their investigation did not include interviews with witnesses other than Clark.
The police report describing the incident quotes Diamond Hurt, then 20, saying Clark punched her in the face. Hurt’s younger brothers are quoted saying the same thing.
When Babson and Colie found her, Hurt “was just laying there,’’ Babson said. “She looked like she was unconscious to me.
“The kids were saying, ‘He killed my sister!’ ’’
Colie added that Hurt “was on the ground, curled up and holding her head and stuff.’’
Both women gave written statements to police via email the following day. But they say they never heard back from anybody about the case until The Seattle Times contacted them on Monday.
They remain perplexed as to why there were no follow-up calls to them by police.
Settled with plea deal
Clark was initially charged with two first-degree misdemeanors for domestic violence and assault. Three weeks ago, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of persistent disorderly conduct in a plea deal with prosecutors.
He was given a $250 fine, received no further jail time beyond two days already served and won’t have a domestic-violence conviction on his record. Police and prosecutors could not be reached Monday to explain why Clark was offered a plea deal, or to detail the extent of any follow-up investigation.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider has said the team investigated the matter thoroughly and would never have drafted Clark if they believed he’d struck his girlfriend. Schneider made those statements Friday and repeated them again in a radio interview Monday with 710 ESPN Seattle. He said in the radio interview that the team had three people investigate Clark’s background, and had concluded that “whether it was punching a woman or striking a woman he would not have been on our board.’’
Told later Monday of what Babson and Colie had said in their interviews with the Times, the Seahawks issued a statement saying the team had looked at the police report and conducted “confidential interviews with people directly involved with the case.’’
But other than Clark, the statement added, the team did not “speak directly to any witnesses from that night.’’
The team’s investigation “provided our organization with an in-depth understanding of the situation and background,’’ the statement said.
Clark could not be reached for comment Monday. But his lawyer, Kenneth Bailey, issued a statement saying, “I want to assure you that based upon many conversations with Frank Clark, I am comfortable re-affirming his prior statements that he did not strike his then-girlfriend.”
The drafting of Clark has come under scrutiny following last year’s Ray Rice domestic-abuse case. Rice, a Baltimore Raven, was initially suspended by the NFL for two games after being charged with assault.
After a video emerged showing him in an elevator hitting his then-fiancée in the face, he was banned from the league. NFL officials acknowledged they had not adequately investigated the case. Rice’s ban was later overturned by a court.
In Clark’s case, the initial police report states that Hurt told police Clark “punched her in the face” and that she fell backward, breaking a lamp. Hurt’s younger brother, then 15, told police he’d been showering when the altercation began, then came out and “observed Frank (Clark) punching Diamond (Hurt).’’
Clark told police at the time that he “didn’t touch that woman.” And on Friday, he would tell reporters only that he regretted putting himself “in a position where I shouldn’t have been.”
Photos in the police report show red marks on the side of Hurt’s face and neck and an abrasion police describe as an apparent rug burn on her right hip.
Her brother told police his sister was trying to fight back when Clark “grabbed her by the throat, picked her up off the ground and slammed her to the ground while also landing on top of her.’’
According to the report, a much younger brother had been in the room when the incident began and told police “he saw Frank hitting his sister.’’
The report was filed by Officer Martin Curran of the Perkins Township Police Department, who conducted interviews at the scene with another officer. Curran could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Babson and Colie both forwarded written statements to Curran the following day.
In an email exchange that same night with Babson, Curran told her an arrest had been made and that her statement would help a lot.
“Intense but sad situation,’’ he wrote. “Sorry you had to witness that in our township.’’
Hurt’s mother, who had been downstairs when the altercation occurred, declined to comment Monday when reached by phone. A phone call to a number listed for Hurt was answered by a male, who promptly hung up the phone without comment.
Babson says she and Colie never entered Clark’s hotel room, but merely hovered by the open door. She says she briefly returned to her room, dialed 911 and the hotel’s front desk and advised them to send up security.
With Clark still inside his own room, Babson says she went back outside and saw Hurt’s youngest siblings gathered there. She moved them down to another end of the hallway until hotel staff arrived.
She says their room and Clark’s were the only ones occupied on the floor at that time because of renovations being done at the hotel. Less than an hour before the incident, both she and Colie witnessed Clark running through the hallway dressed in only his bathing suit with a group of teens she now figures were football fans who’d recognized him.
The women felt he was acting strangely and seemed intoxicated.
“He was definitely drunk, there was no doubt about it,’’ Colie said, adding she leaned outside and told the group to quiet down at one point.
The police report quotes one of Hurt’s brothers saying Clark had consumed “a fifth of Hennessey” earlier that night. The report does not mention a blood-alcohol test of Clark, but it does say Hurt was given a test and registered a .000% level.
After the incident, while Babson stood outside in the hallway waiting for police to arrive, Clark stormed past her with his hoodie on to shield his face, she said. But he returned soon after, she added, yelling that he wanted his wallet.
Both women felt he might try to leave. The police report indicates a male maintenance employee followed Clark outside to the parking lot and kept an eye on him until police arrived.
Babson said she never feared for her own safety, though she’s glad she intervened when she did since nobody else was on the floor. She says she can’t understand how the Seahawks could conclude there had been no physical altercation.
“Her body was just not moving,’’ she said. “It looked like she was unconscious to me. She was just laying there. Her eyes weren’t even open.’’