News broke last week of a May 2015 arrest for current New York Gian kicker Josh Brown. The NFL has suspended Brown for the first game of the season. When the NFL announced the suspension last week it sent the media, and me, on a rush to make public records requests to the King County Sheriff’s Office and the King County Prosecutor’s Office to find out more about the incident that took place more than a year ago. The public records request produced the entire investigation of Brown after he was arrested for domestic violence assault in 2015 and, as reported by ESPN and numerous other media outlets, the records also allege numerous other allegations of abuse beyond the May 2015 allegation. So, why are we just now hearing of Brown’s arrest?
Based on public records obtained, and a search of the Court’s Judicial Information System, it appears that Brown was arrested on May 22, 2015 for allegedly assaulting his ex-wife. Washington has a mandatory domestic violence arrest law (RCW 10.99.030 and RCW 10.31.100) where police must arrest a suspect when there is probable cause to believe a domestic violence assault has occurred. After being arrested and booked into the King County Jail, Brown posted $2,000 bail and was released. On May 27, 2015, there was a court hearing in King County District Court where the prosecutor announced they were declining to file charges.
In King County District Court the prosecutor routinely declines to file charges right away because the statute of limitations is two years for gross misdemeanors (three years for felonies), and the prosecutor likes to have their investigation complete before officially filing criminal charges (although charges may be filed right away on more serious offenses and also where the suspect is a risk to flee the state). The prosecutor never did file charges against Brown and based on a May 24, 2016 memo the prosecutor sent to the King County Sheriff’s Office, it appears they will not be filing any charges without receiving statements from additional witnesses (which they were never able to obtain). Technically, the statute of limitation on the case has not run so the prosecutor could still charge Brown with a crime. But this appears to be extremely unlikely to occur. The NFL does not need proof beyond a reasonable doubt to impose a suspension like the prosecutor does to convict someone of a crime. So in the end, Brown was arrested for the assault, but he has never been charged with a crime.
So why is so much information available to the public when no charges were even filed. And is there anything Brown could have done about it (or Brown’s ex-wife, who may not be happy about the release of so much personal information about her as well)? RCW 42.56.540 does allow a person to seek an injunction from the court which would prevent the release of a public record if they can show the “examination [of the record] would clearly not be in the public interest and would substantially and irreparably damage any person, or would substantially and irreparably damage vital governmental functions.” So, in theory, Brown could have filed a motion in court and if granted, the injunction would have prevented the world from obtaining these police reports. Now that the records are public, it is too late to seek such an injunction so Brown will have to live with all of the allegations being made public.