Behavior of defense makes ugly case worse

A grim legal case turned uglier this week and we hope prosecutors can find a way to charge the offending party.

In July, the principal of a private Arlington school was charged with third-degree child rape. A 14-year-old student told police that Mark Evan Brown, 37, had sexual contact with her in a room he set up at the school with a hide-a-bed and a television. He pleaded not guilty. Brown is accused of encouraging the girl to run away and offering her a place to stay at the school. After an initial statement of support, the Highland Christian School fired Brown.

Brown’s trial, originally set for January, was moved to March after attorneys agreed they needed more time to prepare.

For the accused, part of the preparation included hiring a private investigator, Michael Powers, who, it turns out, was sending text messages to the now 15-year-old girl, pretending to be Brown, and encouraging her to meet with his attorney and criminal investigator. The messages also accused the girl of telling lies.

An arrest warrant was originally issued for Brown, who is prohibited from contacting the girl. But Brown’s defense attorney, Karen Halverson, convinced a judge that the messages came from the private investigator and one of Brown’s relatives. “Mr. Brown didn’t know about the messages,” Halverson said, making it not better at all.

Maybe Brown knew, maybe he didn’t. Maybe he knew he had a legal out by having the private investigator deliver his messages and denying knowledge. Regardless, more damage is done to the student. Among the evidence against Brown is the nearly 700 text messages and phone calls he exchanged with the girl. Manipulative and obsessive are two words that come to mind.

Consider that the girl told detectives she is the one who initiated the latest contact and that she got Brown’s new cell phone number from his wife, by sending the woman a text message pretending to be somebody else. She said she corresponded with Brown (or who she thought was Brown) by sending messages through a friend. So it would seem she is trying to protect the man she accused, while he, through others, is trying to get her to change her story. Well done, private investigator and unnamed Brown’s relative.

What would seem obvious required a judge’s order: Now no one involved with Brown’s defense can attempt to contact the girl, either using their identity or impersonating Brown. Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Mark Roe said he will continue to look at whether a crime was committed. It certainly seems criminal. But maybe it’s just extremely unethical and cruel.

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