SEATTLE – King County Sheriff John Urquhart blasted the National Football League Friday after the league said the department failed to release details of its investigation in the domestic violence case against former Seahawks kicker Josh Brown.
Police documents obtained by the media this week reveal a larger pattern of alleged abuse by Brown. Now the NFL is now finding itself in a familiar position of defending itself over its handling of domestic violence cases after it only gave Brown a one-game suspension at the start of the season.
Journal entries and emails by Brown said he had "been physically, emotionally and verbally" abusive. Those documents were given to the sheriff's office investigators by his then-wife, Molly Brown, after Brown was arrested in May 2015.
"I have abused my wife," read one entry with the words underlined and circled.
A misdemeanor domestic violence charge against Brown was dropped within days of his arrest in Woodinville after prosecutors reviewed the case. The NFL, which said it lacked the cooperation of Molly Brown, suspended Josh Brown for the first game of the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
But with the new revelations, the NFL attempted to defend itself, releasing this statement Thursday that puts some of the onus on the sheriff’s office.
“NFL investigators made repeated attempts—both orally and in writing—to obtain any and all evidence and relevant information in this case from the King County Sheriff’s Office. Each of those requests was denied and the Sheriff’s Office declined to provide any of the requested information, which ultimately limited our ability to fully investigate this matter. We concluded our own investigation, more than a year after the initial incident, based on the facts and evidence available to us at the time and after making exhaustive attempts to obtain information in a timely fashion. It is unfortunate that we did not have the benefit or knowledge of these materials at the time.
“In light of the release of these documents yesterday, we will thoroughly review the additional information and determine next steps in the context of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy. We will not be making any comments on potential discipline until that time. “
Sheriff Urquhart says he believes the NFL is trying to use his office as a scapegoat. He says the league did not go through the proper channels to get the information. And even if it had, the sheriff said his department would not have released the information because it was an ongoing investigation.
"I think the policy of any police department across the country is you don't jeopardize an ongoing investigation by releasing information to anybody. The NFL or anybody else," said Urquhart.
Urquhart said the NFL only knew about that one incident in May 2015 and was unaware of the deeper pattern investigators discovered.
Urquhart said the sheriff's office received emails from Rob Agnew, a local, contracted investigator NFL security in 2015, asking for information. But the sheriff said Agnew did not identify himself as working for the NFL.
Molly Brown was then contacted by Deborah Katz from NFL security, according to the sheriff. Urquhart said the NFL also got a police officer from another agency who works locally for the NFL to try getting the information from detectives.
The NFL responded to Urquhart's criticisms Friday, reiterating that it had made written and verbal requests for the information. It even specifically highlighted an internal sheriff's office email detailing Katz' contact with Molly Brown and the subsequent call from the sheriff's office to Katz.
He said regardless of who tried to contact them, releasing details of an open investigation could have jeopardized the work of detectives.
Urquhart said he's upset that the league is trying to blame his investigators for not getting all the facts.
"I think their description of why they couldn't get paperwork on this case was wrong. And they were highly critical of the sheriff's office and that criticism was unwarranted and it was just plain wrong, and so I pushed back," said Urquhart.
Urquhart says the NFL's security department includes current and former members of law enforcement, who would understand why the sheriff's office would not release the details. He believes the league's statement Thursday was likely the work of the NFL's public relations arm, which didn't know any better.
"So they put out that press release that's, frankly, just wrong. And unduly, unfairly critical of the sheriff's office," said Urquhart. "When it reflects on my people, I push back on that. I don't let that go."
The case was sent back to the King County Prosecutor's Office, which says it has declined to file charges because Molly Brown did not want to move forward with the case.
Urquhart has some advice for the NFL in the future.
"Communicate better," he said. "I would have called Roger Goodell myself and said 'Hey. This is an open investigation. I can't give you specifics, but I would be very careful with this case. It's still progressing. We're doing a lot more information than what you know now. Just be careful. Don't get ahead of this.'"
The NFL announced Friday it was placing Brown on paid leave via the commissioner’s exempt list, which allows his current team, the New York Giants, to pick up another kicker.
Brown played for the Seahawks from 2003-2007.