Dion Earl, former owner of the Seattle Impact indoor-soccer team, was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison by an Arizona judge who labeled him a “sexual predator” and suggested his victims stretch beyond the two babysitters for his children he was convicted of sexually assaulting and abusing.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Cohen handed down the sentence with one of the babysitters and her mother, stepfather and grandmother watching from the spectator gallery. They reacted emotionally when Cohen ignored a sobbing Earl’s courtroom pleas to be let off on probation and community service and instead gave him roughly double the 5-to-7-year term his defense lawyer sought as “fair” for his conviction on sexual assault, sexual abuse, kidnapping and other charges.
Earl was also placed on lifetime supervised probation. His nearly two years in jail while awaiting trial counts as time served toward the sentence.
“What is clear to this court is that you are a sexual predator,” Cohen told Earl in official courtroom audio obtained by The Seattle Times. “The court also recognizes that there is nothing I will say here that will get through to you. Nothing that I could say that could make you understand that what you did has hurt so many people.”
Earl, 47, a former Seattle Pacific University star and Seattle SeaDogs indoor and Sounders outdoor “A-League” player in the 1990s, had been found guilty in an August jury trial stemming from the 2017 cases — with the prosecution aided by two former Impact female dance-team members flown to Arizona to testify. The former dance-team members had no firsthand involvement in the cases Earl was on trial for, but gave detailed accounts of him sexually molesting and fondling them in 2014 — accusations they later successfully sued him for but could not get King County prosecutors to file criminal charges on.
“Your victims, sir, were not just the two charged victims in this case,” Cohen told Earl. “Your reach is outside of the state of Arizona to the other young women that also testified in this trial.”
Trial testimony alleged Earl had shown a pattern of sexually abusive behavior toward women in incidents in Arizona, Seattle and Las Vegas.
In the courtroom Friday, the mother of the victim present, Elizabeth Ward, urged the judge to send Earl a harsh message. “He has assaulted multiple women during a 20-year time frame with no accountability at all,” Ward said. “Seattle failed us, your honor. I do not want Arizona to fail us. He left Seattle and has continued his terrorizing of young women here in Arizona and across the U.S.”
After Friday’s sentence, Ward and her husband, O.D. Harris, said in an interview they felt the verdict fair, but again criticized Seattle-area authorities for not dealing with Earl sooner. Benjamin Taylor, a lawyer representing the victims, said, “Dion Earl has terrorized many women, and today justice was served.”
The Impact dance team disbanded shortly after the 2014 allegations and the majority of Earl’s players quit in protest. Earl was forced to dissolve the Impact — playing its first season in the Major Arena Soccer League — and sell local territorial rights to the Tacoma Stars soon after a Seattle Times story in December 2014 on the allegations and prolonged history of accusations against Earl of inappropriate behavior toward women.
At least five protection orders had been sought against him from 1998 to 2011 by women claiming harassment and threats. Earl was also fired from a high-school coaching job in Bellevue in 1998 for allegedly asking a female student out on a date and convicted of non-felony assault after a 1999 argument with his sister.
Earl was also the lone suspect in a 2009 rape investigation by Kirkland police into an alleged attack on a massage-parlor therapist, but the case was closed due to a lack of evidence.
Kirkland police reopened the case shortly after Earl’s arrest in Arizona and he was charged last June with second-degree rape. The plan is to extradite Earl back to Seattle to face the rape charge, though a spokesman for the King County prosecutor’s office said Friday the timing is not yet clear.
Earl, who maintained residences in Kent and Mesa, Ariz., and traveled between both, had throughout his trial dismissed as “lies’’ the claims by the babysitters, ages 18 and 21, the Seattle women and also a former nanny who testified he had molested her in Las Vegas in another unprosecuted case.
Prosecutor Yigael Cohen had asked for the maximum sentence allowable — about 17 years under state guidelines — claiming he showed a predator’s pattern and no remorse. But Earl’s lawyer, Jesus Acosta, urged he be sentenced only for crimes he’d been convicted of and “not what we believe that he’s done in the past.”
Earl tearfully told the judge his children, ages 6, 7 and 9, needed him home. “My kids are hurting and suffering without me,” he said, breaking down in sobs.
In a presentencing letter to the judge Thursday, Earl maintained he was guilty only of “unprofessional” behavior by reciprocating sexual advances by the babysitters. “I don’t have an evil, malicious, slandering let alone kidnapping or assaulting bone in my body,’’ Earl wrote.
Supportive letters were also provided by his mother, sister, brother-in-law and ex-wife, Laurel, who filed for divorce shortly before his 2017 arrest.
Earl’s sister wrote that, as she became a young adult, she “observed Dion’s behavior and character changing.’’
She added she lacks “the medical answers as to why this took place’’ but asked the judge to reunite Earl with his family so they can “help Dion with any treatment he may need to balance his behavior” and be the best version of himself.
But in a victim-impact statement read in court Friday on behalf of the babysitter that couldn’t attend the hearing, she said her life has been filled with stress and depression since Earl assaulted her. “I honestly, truly believe he never needs to see the light of day again,” she said.