Former Kent pro soccer team owner Dion Earl pleaded guilty on Wednesday to third-degree rape in a Kirkland case from 2009.
King County prosecutors last year charged Earl, 48, with second-degree rape. King County officials extradited Earl in March from Arizona where he was serving time after a jury convicted him in 2019 of sexual assault, sexual abuse, kidnapping, assault and public sexual indecency in connection with two women who babysat his children in Mesa. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Cohen sentenced Earl in October to 12 years in prison.
Earl owned the Seattle Impact indoor soccer team that played in 2014 at the ShoWare Center in Kent. The team became the Tacoma Stars in 2015 when Lane Smith bought the Major Arena Soccer League franchise. Earl later moved from Kent to Arizona.
Earl faces a potential sentence of 33 to 44 months for third-degree rape in King County. He will serve that sentence after his prison time in Arizona. A sentencing date has not yet been set, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors recommended a sentence of 33 months as part of the agreement. The judge does not have to follow the agreement when decided on a sentence.
A Seattle Pacific University star soccer player in the 1990s, Earl was booked into the King County jail on March 20. He remains in jail.
He also is being held on a federal tax fraud case for allegedly using 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, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. That case is expected to move forward after he is sentenced for rape.
If convicted as charged for tax fraud, Earl could be sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Kirkland Police reopened a 2009 rape investigation against Earl in 2017 at the request of the victim, now in her early 30s, which resulted in the charge filed last year. In charging papers, prosecutors said that Earl raped the victim who was working at a massage parlor. Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Emily Petersen wrote in court documents that Earl forced the victim to engage in sexual intercourse by holding her down. In addition, he told the victim that he was a cop and would have her arrested if she reported the rape.
In his guilty plea, Earl signed documents and stated that he engaged in sexual intercourse with the woman and that she did not consent to intercourse and that was clearly expressed by her actions.
The woman contacted an attorney after the 2009 incident. The attorney 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, according to court documents. 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.
Mesa Police arrested Earl in October 2017 for sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman and a 21-year-old woman in separate incidents less than a month apart when he hired them to babysit his two young daughters. The women reportedly didn’t know each other and came forward with their allegations at different times.
“Dion Earl terrorized many women over the years,” according to an email from the victims’ attorney Benjamin Taylor to the Arizona Republic after Earl was sentenced in Arizona.
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 court ordered Earl to pay nearly $1 million in damages and legal fees.
The soccer team organized a massive, 22-player walkout in November 2014 to protest how Earl treated the dancers and employees.