Dion Earl, a former Seattle indoor soccer team owner, is accused of sexually assaulting two women in Mesa, Ariz. Earl’s arrest raised questions about the failure by authorities to bring charges against him in King County, where he was the subject of two sexual-assault probes.
Kirkland police have reopened a long-dormant rape investigation into onetime Seattle Impact professional indoor soccer team owner Dion Earl after his indictment on sexual-assault and kidnapping charges late last year in Arizona, The Seattle Times has learned.
Earl has remained behind bars since being accused in October of sexually assaulting two women, ages 18 and 21, while they baby-sat his children in separate incidents at his Mesa, Arizona, home. Prosecutors have offered Earl, 45, a plea-bargain deal of three to 12 years in prison while he awaits a March trial.
His arrest has raised lingering questions about the failure of authorities to bring charges against Earl in King County, where the former Seattle Pacific University soccer star and Seattle Sea Dogs indoor player was the subject of myriad police calls, protection orders and investigations, including two sexual-assault probes.
Since his Arizona arrest, Kirkland police have reviewed evidence from their 2009 investigation of Earl, who had been accused of raping a female massage parlor attendant during an appointment.
Most Read Local Stories
- The Northern Lights could be visible from across Washington state; here’s how and when to see them
- 'Why are we exporting billions of dollars around the state?' The coming showdown over Seattle's money | Danny Westneat
- Seattle sees nation's biggest drop in solo car commuters as transit, walking surge | FYI Guy
- WSU student died 4 hours before police were called, coroner says
- Black Diamond man accused of using chloroform and acetone to knock out teenage stepdaughter
Two people familiar with the investigation have indicated a new lead detective, Mark Brown, is handling the case and has reinterviewed the female complainant. King County prosecutor Emily Petersen also met with the alleged victim at police headquarters, according to one of the people familiar with the investigation. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case..
Samples of Earl’s DNA collected since his October arrest have been given to the Washington State Patrol crime laboratory for comparison with fluid found on the woman’s underwear from that night in 2009.
The initial Kirkland investigation by a different detective, Christa Gilland, carried into 2010 and then sat dormant, with no follow-up or conclusion for more than four years. Kirkland police blamed the lapse on a routine shift of detectives to other departmental duties without anybody new being assigned the case.
The oversight wasn’t discovered until late 2014, after Earl made headlines when two female dance-team members for his Kent-based indoor soccer squad accused him of sexual assault. Kirkland police at the time were asked about their prior Earl investigation and noticed the case lacked a conclusion. The original detective, Gilland, was asked to provide one — which she did, stating there wasn’t enough evidence to bring charges.
As with the Kirkland investigation, Mary Lisa Priebe-Olson, the King County Sheriff’s Office detective assigned to the 2014 case involving the Impact dance-team members, closed it, citing a lack of evidence.
In Arizona, police had been investigating a September complaint by a 21-year-old baby-sitter — hired through an online service — who accused Earl of digitally penetrating her at his home. They arrested Earl after the second baby-sitter, age 18, told them in October she had been fondled by Earl.
Earl’s lawyer, Jocquese Blackwell, declined to comment on the case, other than to say his client isn’t guilty.
O.D. Harris, father of the 18-year-old, said his honors-student daughter might never have been abused had Earl — who maintains residences in Arizona and Kent — been prosecuted in Washington.
“It really makes me sad that our justice system has failed all these people all of these years,” Harris said.
Kirkland police declined to comment on the new investigation. King County Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson Whitney Keyes said the case has been logged with its office but added that it has not been reviewed, nor has a decision been made whether to file charges.
But documents from the case were sent to police in Arizona, according to people familiar with the investigation.
On Dec. 14, Maricopa County prosecutor Megan Eshelman amended the six-count indictment against Earl, introducing “aggravating factors” that could significantly increase his prison time: namely, evidence of “prior acts” and “past bad conduct” in Washington that “did not result in a conviction.”
It took months for Kirkland police to identify Earl as their rape suspect, because the massage parlor attendant hadn’t known the identity of the customer who showed up for an appointment on Sept. 27, 2009, when she was alone. She said the man claimed to be a police officer and threatened to arrest her for solicitation unless she submitted to him.
She said he then raped her.
The woman went to Valley Medical Center in Renton the next day, where evidence for a rape kit was gathered. But she waited two weeks before reporting the incident to police on Oct. 9, 2009. Friends say she had been trying to get the customer’s name from the massage parlor’s uncooperative owner before going to police.
The woman provided police with towels she and the man used and underwear she’d worn in which male DNA was later found. But her rape kit from the day after the incident had been disposed of by Valley Medical Center because nobody collected it within 72 hours.
Police documents state the hospital tried unsuccessfully to contact the complainant and learned no police report had been filed. Hospital spokesman Kelley Balcomb-Bartok confirmed there was a 72-hour disposal policy then, but it was changed to 30 days in 2013 and 90 days in 2015.
By February 2010, the woman told police that soccer acquaintances had suggested Earl as the possible suspect. She later identified Earl through photographs.
Kirkland police documents show Earl was reached by phone and initially denied to Gilland, the detective, that he had assaulted anybody. Instead he claimed he had let the woman fondle him sexually.
The report says Earl claimed there’d been a dispute over price, and the woman threatened to keep a sample of his DNA and claim she was raped.
Earl agreed to a subsequent interview at the police station and to provide a DNA sample. But he later hired an attorney and offered only a written statement claiming he’d had sexual intercourse with the woman at her suggestion and would not provide DNA.
The police report shows Gilland did not further attempt to acquire Earl’s DNA, feeling any match would prove only intercourse and not rape.
By 2014, the fledgling Major Arena Soccer League had awarded Earl the Impact expansion franchise — he soon made himself a player and coach — to play at the ShoWare Center in Kent. The league later claimed a background check missed years of red flags about him.
Earl had been fired from coaching at a high school in Bellevue in 1998 for allegedly asking a 17-year-old cheerleader out on a date — leading to Earl being named in a Seattle Times investigative series in 2003 titled “Coaches who Prey.” From 1998 through 2014, five women took out restraining orders against Earl, claiming various forms of harassment.
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.
Ex-Impact office manager Amy David recently told The Seattle Times that Earl took an uncanny interest in the squad’s dance team. David told police about Earl’s behavior after the two Ladies with Impact dance-team members claimed he had sexually assaulted them in September 2014. Shortly after, 22 of Earl’s players quit in protest.
David maintains nobody conducted follow-up police interviews with her or anybody else.
“You look at his history, that should have been enough to investigate further,” David said.
Documents from the King County Sheriff’s Office investigation in 2014 show Priebe-Olson, the detective, interviewed one dancer on Sept. 23, 2014, and told her the case was “a civil workplace issue.” The dancer claimed Earl invited her to a business meeting at his home, then shoved her facedown on his sofa and began massaging her under her shirt and rolling down her leggings. She said he straddled her when she tried to get up and thrust himself against her.
An Impact player who also was at Earl’s house when the dancer was there, Gordy Gurson, told Priebe-Olson in a phone interview he had been upstairs and hadn’t heard anything. But Gurson also said Earl asked him to lie and tell police he’d witnessed his interactions with the dancer and that no wrongdoing occurred.
Earl returned a call from Priebe-Olson, leaving a voice message denying any assault and adding he’d be happy to talk. She didn’t get back to Earl for six days, by which time he was directing questions to his lawyers.
The second dance-team member told police in a written statement Oct. 8, 2014, that Earl in mid-September invited her to hand out promotional fliers with him, then insisted they stop at a strip club.
The second dancer wrote that Earl groped her inside the club. She said she would not press criminal charges — fearing reprisals — but provided the statement to support the first dancer’s allegations.
Priebe-Olson closed the case weeks later, writing: “I don’t have probable cause to believe a crime occurred.’’
Earl’s franchise rights were revoked and the Impact disbanded shortly after a December 2014 story in The Seattle Times detailing the sexual-assault allegations and his past.
The dancers, David and three other former Impact employees filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court against Earl alleging a hostile work environment and were awarded just under $1 million in damages and attorney’s fees. The lawsuit alleged Earl “was more passionate about luring ‘smoking hot’ dancers than he was about a soccer team.”
It alleged Earl recruited dance-team members via social media, invited them to his home and pushed them to purchase skimpy outfits he selected from Stripper Boutique.
The King County Prosecutor’s Office reviewed the Impact case and Kirkland rape investigation after the 2014 publicity but decided against criminal charges.
Things have gone differently in Arizona.
Earl initially denied intimate contact with the two baby sitters. But under further questioning, he claimed they’d been the sexually aggressive ones.
Police were skeptical. Their report stated Earl’s story “lacked sense and credibility,” while both women provided credible, detailed accounts that didn’t change.
Interested observers in Washington and Arizona now await Earl’s fate. One is Harris, father of the 18-year-old complainant in Arizona, who calls Earl “the West Coast Predator.” Harris and community activists held a November news conference outside Earl’s home to raise awareness of his past.
“He’s used that ‘he said/she said’ defense for far too long,” Harris said. “All of these people are not making this up.”