EVERETT — A former private Christian school principal accused of sexually abusing a student is no longer wanted by police after prosecutors learned it was the man’s private investigator, not the defendant, who sent the girl text messages in recent weeks.
The arrest warrant for Mark Brown, 37, was thrown out Monday after a judge was convinced that Brown hadn’t violated a court order by exchanging text messages with the girl, 15, encouraging her to meet with his attorney and criminal investigator.
The messages, some sent as recently as Thursday, instead came from private investigator Michael Powers and one of Brown’s relatives. Both pretended to be Brown while corresponding with the girl, defense attorney Karen Halverson said.
“Mr. Brown didn’t know about the messages,” she said.
A $500,000 bench warrant was issued for Brown on Friday after a judge determined there was probable cause to believe Brown had corresponded with the teen despite a court order prohibiting him from contacting the girl.
A Snohomish County sheriff’s detective attempted to arrest Brown on Friday but was unable to locate him.
Brown is charged with third-degree child rape. He is accused of encouraging the girl, then 14, to run away from home in June and sexually assaulting her in a room he set up for her at Highland Christian School in Arlington. Detectives reported that the two exchanged hundreds of text messages before Brown was arrested for investigation of child rape, according to court documents.
Brown has been free on bail since July when he pleaded innocent to the charge. The rape trial is scheduled for March.
Brown was in court Monday with his wife and father. He declined to speak with The Herald on the advice of his attorney.
Prosecutors were acting in good faith when they sought the arrest warrant last week but didn’t have accurate information, Halverson told the judge. Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Hal Hupp had attempted to contact Halverson about the alleged violation before he sought the warrant but she was out of the country.
Prosecutors were obligated to seek the warrant based on the information they had, said Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Mark Roe, who heads the prosecutor’s office special assault unit.
“When someone is under a court order not to have contact with a victim, part of our job is to make sure that order is upheld. That’s what we did,” Roe said.
The correspondence raises concerns for Roe, who pointed out that Brown was exposed to possible arrest because of the text messages his private investigator sent.
“It’s something that shouldn’t have happened,” Roe said. “I certainly looked at whether (the investigator) committed a crime and I will continue to look at whether a crime was committed.”
Hupp sought the arrest warrant Friday after the girl told detectives she had been in communication with Brown. The girl told detectives she initiated the contact and got Brown’s new cell phone number from his wife, by sending the woman a text message pretending to be someone else, Hupp wrote in court documents filed in Snohomish County Superior Court.
She explained that she corresponded with Brown by sending messages through a friend, Hupp wrote. Detectives spoke with the girl’s friend, who sent the detectives several saved messages that appeared to be written by Brown. The messages urged the girl to talk with Brown’s attorney or the private investigator. They also accused the girl of telling lies.
Brown didn’t know those messages were being sent, Halverson said.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair on Monday ordered that nobody involved with Brown’s defense attempt to have contact with the girl, either using their identity or impersonating Brown.
Halverson also agreed to arrange through the prosecutor’s office any interviews that the defense is entitled to with the girl.
“Hopefully we’ll not have a repeat of this,” Fair said.
Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or email@example.com.