On the night of April 20, 2018, five players from Eastside Catholic’s powerhouse high school football team rode through Bellevue in a pickup with a 16-year-old girl from another school. A sixth player, from Lake Washington High School, was also with them.
Events that soon unfolded, according to court documents, sworn statements under oath and additional interviews with police, would lead to a monthslong sexual assault investigation, result in the girl leaving school and cast a shadow over the players and Eastside Catholic’s two ensuing Washington state 3A championships.
The girl told police she had been drinking when four of the players – one adult and three juveniles — sexually assaulted her while the other two were in the cab, according to police. Investigators also heard from student interviews that video of the incident had been widely circulated on Snapchat.
The King County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file criminal charges after the investigation, which was led by the Clyde Hill Police Department with support from other agencies.
“While the facts of the case were concerning, there was insufficient evidence to support criminal charges against any of the accused,’’ King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said in a written statement to The Seattle Times. “These young men were not treated differently because they were football players, either giving them a benefit or holding them to a higher standard.’’
Lt. Dawn Hanson, the case supervisor with Clyde Hill, said the four players in the truck bed acknowledged having sex with the girl but said it was consensual. The other two, including the Lake Washington player, were in the cab and did not participate in any sex acts, according to police.
The Times generally does not identify victims of alleged sexual assault. The Times also is not naming five of the players because they were not charged. The sixth player, who police said did not participate in the sex acts, is named in this story because he publicly identified himself on Twitter as a witness.
Clyde Hill police chief Kyle Kolling said he and others involved in the investigation were “surprised” and “frustrated” by the decision not to prosecute.
“We did a very methodical, and as far as I’m concerned, a very outstanding investigation,” Kolling said in an interview. “It took us several months to do it and just like any other case we would handle, I know we did it right. The prosecutor’s office told us we did it right.”
“Clyde Hill police presented us with a thorough and complete investigation for review,” said Emily Petersen, one of the prosecutors on the case. “However, we did not perceive them to be making a charging recommendation one way or another.”
Petersen and the Clyde Hill officers executed multiple search warrants, according to Kolling, and seized the phone of a player to be analyzed for data evidence.
No video was found. Police did, however, find evidence video from the phone was sent to Snapchat, but couldn’t tell what was in it.
“Once those videos are watched by the receiver, they’re [automatically] deleted,” Kolling said. “And the only thing you can tell is that, yeah, a message was sent. You just don’t know what it was.”
Though Snapchat videos disappear after viewing, the company has a specific protocol that can make it possible for law enforcement to recover video footage in certain instances.
“We tried to obtain copies of videos said to be taken the night of this incident and shared with others,” Ben Santos, chair of a special assault unit at the prosecutor’s office, said in an email to The Times. “But based on the lack of account information regarding the source of videos on Snapchat, we ultimately did not have specific enough information which would have allowed us to obtain a warrant for Snapchat.”
With no video and the players claiming consensual sex, Satterberg said he decided against prosecuting because there wasn’t enough to prove a “lack of consent’’ by the girl.
“The charging decision was not about believing or not believing a victim,’’ Satterberg said. “It had to do with the available evidence that would be presented in court.’’
The Seattle Times in early January filed a public records request with the prosecutor’s office, seeking written, electronic and recorded documents – including all correspondence between the office and lawyers representing players’ families.
Satterberg’s office had already released a 521-page investigative file in December of 2018 to KING-TV (Channel 5), which did not do a story at the time.
But a month later, the prosecutor’s office promised to advise players’ families of any further requests for the records to “provide each of you with third-party notice and an opportunity to enjoin our office from releasing the records.” Such a third-party notice is allowed under the state’s Public Records Act.
The Times filed a lawsuit Feb. 18 against Satterberg’s office, nearly six weeks after the company’s initial request, claiming the process was taking too long. The suit said the office could have quickly released the same file it gave KING 5, as it was already public, while seeking additional records. Eight days later, the families of some of the players, after being given third-party notification, obtained a temporary injunction in King County Superior Court blocking any records release.
Superior Court Judge Ken Schubert last month overturned the injunction. The parents have appealed and the case is ongoing.
The parents argue the records have no public value, pertain mostly to then-juveniles and could ruin their reputations and futures. But Schubert ruled there was value providing records with redacted player names and identifying details so The Times can scrutinize decisions by police and prosecutors.
Statements signed by four players and one set of parents in their lawsuit against the Times fighting the release of records say the girl made up parts of her story and falsely claimed the sex was non-consensual. They complained they were bullied and taunted by classmates and adults, being called “rapists” and subjected to crowd chants of “No-Means-No!” and “A-L-L-E-G-A-T-I-O-N!” during games.
Lara Hruska, a lawyer representing the players and parents, said in an email to The Times Friday, “While the records ultimately do exonerate our clients, release of them will not quell the public obsession with this private encounter between minors.
“Our legislature has determined for many reasons that juvenile records should remain confidential. The Seattle Times has forced our clients to defend that privacy right at tremendous personal expense. Any release of these records would just perpetuate the harassment endured over the last two years – not just by our clients but the young woman, too.”
The alleged victim has given no media interviews.
KING 5 aired a pair of stories this week about the allegations and the decision not to prosecute. The station said it held off from running a story earlier because victims’ advocates had advised that a story could cause further harm to the then-16-year-old girl if the case were made public. In a sworn statement last month supporting the Times’ push for records, the woman, now 18, said that she wanted the records released to prove that she was not lying.
“The events of April 2018 were very traumatic to me,” she said in a March 10 declaration. “Following that night, I was partially hospitalized for a period of months and diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have been bullied in person and online, and I dropped out of my high school and now take classes at another school.”
Exhibits submitted with her court statement include three letters sent by lawyers representing some of the players threatening her family with lawsuits.
“If you succeed in getting colleges to revoke scholarships and thus prevent one or more of these boys from pursuing a professional career,” attorney James E. Lobsenz of Carney Badley Spellman, P.S., wrote Aug. 29, 2018, to the girl’s parents, adding that could amount to damages that “could easily be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per child, and given the value of a professional career… could be millions of dollars per child.”
“No one raped your daughter,” he added.
At least one player has indicated he lost a scholarship in connection with the case.
Star cornerback Ayden Hector confirmed on Twitter this week that he was a witness in the case and that Stanford University had pulled its scholarship offer. Stanford last month had filed its own records request after being tipped off anonymously in February by email about the case. Investigators confirmed to The Times that he was in the cab of the truck and there was no evidence that he participated in the sex acts. The Times named Hector in this and a previous story because he publicly identified himself and his involvement in the case in a tweet.
Hector’s family is one of those fighting to prevent The Times from accessing records. Stanford has declined to comment on its decision.
In its report on Wednesday, KING 5 reported that the girl told a nurse during a sexual assault examination six days after the incident that “I was pretty drunk… I wasn’t in the condition to give consent or anything.”
The news station also reported that Clyde Hill police interviewed an Uber driver who drove the girl home after the incident, who told investigators the girl “seemed fine” and “nothing jumped out as a red flag.”
The player from Lake Washington High, who according to police was in the front of the cab and did not participate in the sex acts, said in a statement in the records case (using a John Doe) that he was taunted and ridiculed so badly, he’d quit football.
Another player indicated in a court statement he had to transfer out of Eastside Catholic.
Another of the players in the bed of the truck that night received a scholarship to play for the University of Washington Huskies this year. The UW, unlike Stanford, did not make a records request for investigation details, according to police and court records.
UW Assistant Athletic Director Jay Hilbrands said state law limits inquiries the university can make about a student applicant’s history with the criminal justice system. He added: “Federal law protects records related to students once admitted to the University.”
The fourth Eastside Catholic player police say was in the pickup bed is set to attend University of California, Berkeley, on a full scholarship. Cal has not made a records request to Clyde Hill police or prosecutors, both confirmed. The school did not respond to a request for comment from The Times Friday.
Karen Hatch, a spokesman for Eastside Catholic, said behavior described in the KING 5 report “is appalling and is not acceptable or aligned with our values.’’
She added: “We also believe in the presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt as core elements of our system of criminal justice, and have fully cooperated with the Clyde Hill Police Department since becoming aware of the allegations.’’
After KING 5’s first report on the case Wednesday night, the station noted Eastside Catholic wide receiver Gee Scott Jr. – recently awarded a scholarship to Ohio State University – was not among players present that night. Scott released a subsequent Twitter statement saying: “My name has been slandered over the past couple of years, and I hope this clears things up.’’