Former soccer team owner faces rape charge in Kirkland case

King County prosecutors filed charge against Dion Earl.

Dion Earl/2014 FILE PHOTO

Dion Earl/2014 FILE PHOTO

Dion Earl, a former Kent resident and Kent-based soccer team owner, faces a second-degree rape charge for an alleged criminal attack of a woman in Kirkland.

King County prosecutors filed the charge on Monday against Earl, 47, who remains jailed in Arizona awaiting trial on sexual assault charges against two women, according to court documents.

Earl has homes in Kent and Mesa, Ariz., but has spent most of the last several years in Arizona. He is the former owner of the Seattle Impact FC franchise, a Major Arena Soccer League team that played in 2014 at the ShoWare Center in Kent. The team became the Tacoma Stars in 2015 when Lane Smith bought the franchise.

Kirkland Police reopened a 2009 rape investigation against Earl in 2017 at the request of the victim, now 32, which resulted in the charge filed this week. Earl is not expected to be at his arraignment June 24 in King County Superior Court because he is in custody in Arizona.

“In the present case, the defendant raped the victim who was working at a massage parlor,” wrote Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Emily Petersen in court documents. “The defendant forced the victim to engage in sexual intercourse by holding her down. In addition, the defendant told the victim that he was a cop and would have her arrested if she reported the rape.”

The woman contacted an attorney who reached out to the Kirkland Police because the man said he was a cop. The woman filed a report with the department on Oct. 9, 2009, about 10 days after the alleged attack. A Kirkland Police detective met with the woman in November 2009. The woman didn’t know who the man was, but after doing research on Google and talking to friends who play soccer, the woman tipped off the detective in February 2010 that the man could be Earl, whose photo she saw on the internet and looked like the same man who attacked her.

The woman later identified Earl in a photo montage presented to her by the Kirkland Police. Earl met with detectives and denied the attack, but he admitted he had been to the massage parlor and had sexual intercourse with a woman.

A Kirkland detective submitted a pair of women’s black thong-style underpants that the woman had kept to the state crime lab in March 2010. A lab scientist found DNA from semen on the thong, but no match to the DNA beyond an unidentified male.

Police closed the investigation (court documents do not explain the reason) but reopened it in November 2017 with another detective assigned to the case after the victim in the 2009 attack asked police to look at the case again because of Earl’s arrest in Arizona. The detective requested and received a search warrant to send to Mesa Police to get a swab of DNA from Earl’s cheek because he was still in custody.

Once the Washington state crime lab compared that swab to the victim evidence previously submitted, the DNA turned out to be a match to Earl, according to court documents.

Tax fraud scheme

In addition to the rape and sexual assault charges, Earl, a star soccer player at Seattle Pacific University in the 1990s, was indicted in 2018 by a federal grand jury for a massive tax fraud scheme, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Earl allegedly used false documents between 2008 and 2014 to lie about his income, the amount of tax dollars withheld by employers and his mortgage deductions, so that he could claim tax refunds of more than $1.1 million.

Until the charges in Arizona are resolved, Earl will not come to Washington state to face the federal and state charges, said a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson. Earl is scheduled to go to trial in July in Arizona. Once that case is done, officials will need to determine whether he faces the state rape charge or federal tax fraud case.

While owner of the Seattle Impact in 2014, Earl came under fire from players and dance team members. He faced several legal battles. Ex-employees, in a lawsuit, accused him of having sexually assaulted two women on the dance team. The scathing lawsuit referred to Earl’s conduct as owner of the Impact as “despicable” and called him a “tyrant,” according to court documents. A massive, 22-player walkout followed in November 2014 to protest how Earl treated the dancers and employees.

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