King County prosecutors have filed a second-degree rape charge against onetime Seattle professional indoor-soccer team owner and player Dion Earl in a decade-old case initially closed by Kirkland police for insufficient evidence.
The case was reopened in November 2017 and assigned to a different Kirkland detective after Earl, 47, was arrested the previous month in Arizona on sexual-assault charges connected to separate incidents involving two female babysitters, ages 18 and 21, who looked after his children. Earl has long maintained residences in Mesa, Arizona, and Kent and frequently traveled between both on business.
The rape charge, filed Monday in King County Superior Court, stems from an alleged September 2009 attack on a massage-parlor worker in Kirkland. Earl is to be arraigned June 24 but is not expected to attend the hearing as he remains jailed in Arizona.
His 2017 arrest in Arizona raised lingering questions about authorities’ failure to charge Earl in King County, where the former Seattle Pacific University soccer star and Seattle Sea Dogs indoor player had been the subject of two sexual-assault probes and myriad police calls, protection orders and investigations.
O.D. Harris, father of the 18-year-old babysitter in the Arizona case, said last year his daughter might never have been abused had Earl been prosecuted in Washington.
“It really makes me sad that our justice system has failed all these people all of these years,’’ Harris said.
Earl had owned the Kent-based Impact expansion team in the fledgling Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) in 2014, but 22 of his players walked out on him shortly after two members of the squad’s all-female dance team complained to police Earl had sexually assaulted them.
That case was also dropped by the King County Sheriff’s Office for a lack of evidence, though the two dancers and four other former team staffers later won nearly $1 million in damages and court fees from Earl in a lawsuit alleging sexual assault, harassment and unfair treatment by him.
Former Impact office manager Amy David, one of the plaintiffs in the case, has said Earl took an uncanny interest in the squad’s dance team. She’s long insisted the sexual-assault allegations by the two dance-team members should have been investigated more aggressively given Earl’s history with women and the earlier rape investigation.
Since David’s 2014 ordeal, in which she says she resigned from the Impact following “hostile’’ treatment by Earl when she tried to confront him about his behavior toward staffers and the dancers, she has been in contact with the alleged victim in the 2009 Kirkland rape case and tried to support her.
She’s thankful Kirkland police and prosecutors took a second look.
“His victim finally has a voice and can hopefully begin to move forward in her healing process after waiting almost a decade for this to come,’’ David said Monday.
But David added: “If he had been charged in 2009, maybe there would not have been so many more victims and I would never have gone to work for him.’’
While in custody in Arizona, Earl was also indicted in April 2018 on federal charges of orchestrating a $1.1 million tax fraud scheme by overstating mortgage-interest payments and his income from various business operations — including the Impact — between 2008 and 2014. Federal prosecutors have stayed proceedings in that case pending the outcome of Earl’s sexual-assault case in Arizona.
Earl was stripped of his soccer franchise by the MASL shortly after a Seattle Times story in December 2014 reported the league’s background checks had failed to turn up red flags, including five restraining orders taken out against him by Seattle-area women for various forms of harassment from 1998 through 2014.
An ex-girlfriend claimed Earl stalked her and broke into her home, standing over her while she and her children slept. Another, who had dated Earl at SPU, claimed he had sent threatening emails to her and her family.
In 1999, Earl was convicted of nonfelony assault in an argument with his sister, but the conviction was dismissed after court-ordered counseling. And a 2003 series in The Seattle Times, “Coaches who Prey,’’ also detailed how Earl lost a high-school coaching job in Bellevue in 1998 after allegedly asking a 17-year-old cheerleader on a date.
After the 2009 Kirkland case was reopened and assigned to Detective Mark Brown, he obtained a search warrant for Earl’s DNA, which was executed by Mesa police while he remained in their custody. Swabs of the DNA were sent to the Washington State Police Crime Laboratory for comparison with fluid initially discovered on underwear submitted by the alleged massage-parlor victim in 2009 that she said she was wearing that night.
Based on the results, court documents state there is probable cause to criminally charge Earl with rape.
The court documents do not address why Earl is being charged now, when Kirkland police had that evidence more than nine years ago and declined to seek a DNA match.
At the time, the first Kirkland police detective, Cristina Gilland, spoke to Earl by phone. She said Earl initially denied any sexual contact with the massage-parlor worker other than letting her fondle him. Then, she added, he later provided a written statement in which he claimed they’d had consensual intercourse for money and she’d tried to extort him for more than the agreed-upon price.
Gilland said Earl told her he was embarrassed about the situation because he had a girlfriend and they were expecting a child together. Though he’d initially agreed to give his DNA, Gilland said, Earl offered only the written statement and had hired an attorney.
A police report shows she did not make any further attempts to acquire Earl’s DNA, figuring it would only prove intercourse and not rape. The case then sat dormant for more than four years, until The Seattle Times story published in 2014 mentioned the unsolved rape investigation as part of a broader story outlining Earl’s history with women.
Kirkland police were asked at the time about their investigation of Earl and the fact it lacked any official conclusion. They cited a routine shift rotation by officers as a reason for the oversight. Gilland was subsequently asked to provide a conclusion and did, stating there wasn’t enough evidence to obtain a conviction.
But then, court documents now show, the case was reopened after the alleged 2009 victim went to Kirkland police in November 2017 — three weeks after Earl’s arrest in Arizona — asking them to take another look.
She told police, as she had in 2009, that she had been raped by a client during an after-hours appointment at a Kirkland establishment raided by police for prostitution earlier that year. The woman said she did not know the name of her alleged assailant because the massage parlor’s owner had booked the appointment and would not divulge it to her.
She alleged that her assailant claimed to be a police officer and said that he would have her arrested for prostitution if she did not grant him sexual favors.
The case was somewhat complicated when rape kit evidence taken from the woman at Valley Medical Center a day after the alleged assault was discarded. The woman had waited two weeks before reporting the rape to police, by which time the rape kit was discarded per hospital policy for evidence not collected within 72 hours.
That policy was changed to a 90-day window in 2015.
But a sketch, that current court documents state “very strongly resembled Earl,” was drawn in November 2009, based on a description given by the woman.
She also at that time provided Gilland two pairs of underwear and cotton athletic pants worn by her that night as well as a washcloth she’d used after the alleged assault and towels used by her assailant.
A few months later, in February 2010, the woman told Gilland some acquaintances in the soccer community suggested Earl might be her assailant. She identified Earl in a subsequent photo lineup assembled by Gilland that included Earl’s drivers-license picture.
In March 2010, the state crime lab identified semen on one of the pairs of underwear and stated: “If references are submitted, comparisons can be made to this profile.”
But another 7 1/2 years would go by before that comparison was attempted.