Onetime professional indoor soccer team owner Dion Earl sobbed while he apologized in court Friday to his Seattle hometown and immediate family after his final tally for guilt in three felony cases was increased to just under 16 years in prison.
Earl, 49, had already been sentenced in 2019 for sexually assaulting two of his children’s babysitters in Arizona and in December for third-degree rape in a decade-old Kirkland case before receiving an additional year of prison time Friday in Seattle for a $1.1 million federal tax-fraud scheme. The former Seattle Pacific University star, who later played for a prior incarnation of the Seattle Sounders, the Seattle SeaDogs indoor team and owned the Seattle Impact indoor squad in 2014, broke down when speaking by phone at Friday’s virtual hearing in U.S. District Court.
His voice choking, Earl, previously described as a “monster” by his Kirkland rape victim in court and a “sexual predator” by the judge at his Arizona trial, declared himself ready “to stay on a straight and narrow path.” He implored federal Judge Robert S. Lasnik to accept a plea-bargained sentence recommendation of one year, plus one day for a tax fraud he could have received up to three years for.
“I miss my kids, your honor,” Earl said. “I miss them.’’
Lasnik, upon hearing Earl’s words, admonished: “I’m sure they miss their dad. You don’t have a chance to make up for something like that. You’re either there, or you’re not.’’
Federal prosecutors opted for the lighter sentence — which Lasnik agreed to impose — under the condition it be served in addition to the nearly 15 years Earl had already received in the more serious sexual assault cases. Under federal sentencing guidelines, had they pursued the three-year maximum at a trial, there’s a chance it would have been served concurrent to — meaning alongside — those prior convictions.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Friedman told the court additional prison time was warranted for Earl’s “egregious, blatant tax fraud’’ given his prior history.
“We’ve tried to look, to some extent, at the conduct in aggregate,’’ Friedman said. “And that’s obviously concerning. … Mr. Earl comes before this court convicted of very serious sex-related crimes in two other cases.’’
In many ways, the three cases against Earl became interwoven. He’d lived freely without prosecution in King County despite being the lone suspect in the 2009 rape case Kirkland police initially kept open for five years and then dropped citing a lack of evidence.
After his 2014 purchase of the Impact, a Kent-based expansion team in the fledgling Major Arena Soccer League, Earl was accused by two of the squad’s female dance team members of having groped and fondled them.
The King County Sheriff’s Office investigated, but also dropped the case citing a lack of evidence. Twenty-two Impact players quit after just one game to protest Earl’s treatment of the dance-team members and other employees, forcing the team to play its schedule with mostly fringe free-agent fill-ins.
The dance team members and other Impact office staffers later successfully sued Earl for nearly $1 million, alleging sexual assault and various forms of harassment.
Earl was forced to disband his franchise soon after a Seattle Times story in December 2014 detailed the sexual-assault accusations and nearly two decades of protection orders sought against him by women. A Times story from 2003 — Coaches Who Prey — also mentioned Earl’s 1998 firing from a high-school coaching job in Bellevue for allegedly asking a 17-year-old cheerleader out on a date.
Earl, after the dropped Impact criminal case, split time between residences in Kent and Mesa, Arizona. Then, in October 2017, he was arrested and charged with sexual assault and kidnapping after two babysitters, aged 18 and 21, alleged he lured them to the Arizona residence to look after his children on separate occasions.
At Earl’s subsequent August 2019 trial in Phoenix, the two former Impact dance team members who couldn’t get him prosecuted in King County were flown in to testify about their prior allegations.
A jury convicted Earl on all counts and he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Meanwhile, the female victim in the 2009 Kirkland case — a former massage-parlor attendant who alleged Earl raped her in an after-hours session — got police to reopen their investigation shortly after his Arizona arrest.
A new lead Kirkland police detective collected DNA from a jailed Earl in Arizona and matched it to clothing items kept by the woman after the 2009 sexual assault. Earl was charged in June 2019 with second-degree rape and last fall pleaded guilty to third-degree rape and received a 33-month sentence.
It still isn’t entirely clear why police and prosecutors in King County waited a decade to pursue the rape case. The mother of one of the Arizona victims blasted King County authorities for allowing Earl to remain free and eventually victimize her daughter.
The full truth about that initial Kirkland investigation might never be known. Earl was given a plea deal before the case went to trial.
On Friday, Earl’s lawyer, Robert Goldsmith, revealed in court that negotiations unfolded for about a year to get federal and King County prosecutors to “work together to come up with an arrangement that would save a lot of court time, avoid testimony by the victim in the state case and all sorts of other benefits to jointly agree to plea deals in the Kirkland rape and the tax-fraud cases.’’
Earl’s rape victim from 2009, while admittedly angry it took 11 years for a prosecution, said after Earl’s guilty plea she’s moved on and is glad the case is done.
The tax-fraud case from April 2018 followed an investigation into Earl’s filings from 2008 through 2014. Earl sought Internal Revenue Service refunds of $1.6 million through falsified filings on tax withholdings for car-sales work, soccer and tennis camps he ran, ownership of the Impact and on mortgage interest paid on four properties.
The IRS refunded $1,093,534. As part of his plea agreement, Earl will pay restitution on that amount, plus $600,000 to the state of Arizona for fraudulent tax filings and $95,000 to Key Bank.
Judge Lasnik told Earl he has “a lot to atone for’’ both with those he’s harmed and the children he told the court he misses.
“You’re either there for them or you’re not,’’ Lasnik said. “So, you have a lot of work to do in your family and in yourself. And you’ll have a lot of time to do it.’’