The former principal of Highland Christian Schools admitted Friday that he kidnapped a teenage student last year.
Snohomish County prosecutors dropped a third-degree child rape charge against Mark Evan Brown as part of a plea agreement
reached with the Arlington father. Brown, 38, pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree kidnapping involving a 14-year-old girl.
He faces up to year in jail. Brown also will have to register as a convicted kidnapper with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office for 15 years. Prosecutors also plan to ask that Brown be evaluated for sexual deviancy, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Halley Hupp said.
“This was a principal that didn’t have principles,”
Brown has adamantly denied raping the girl. He asserted the allegations were based on lies and the charge arose from a bad police investigation.
“I would never plea to something I didn’t do,” he said before Friday’s hearing. “I was there for about 10 minutes. By law what I should have done was call 911 or called her parents. I had a responsibility to report.”
Brown said he was called to the school that night by another teacher who reported students had broken in and were staying at the school. Brown said he mishandled the incident, and in the process put the welfare of one of the students above his own family.
Brown said he chose not to take the case to trial because he was worried that others, including another teacher and two students, who were at the school with the girl also would be charged with kidnapping. They would have incriminated themselves by testifying about what really happened that night, he said.
“Enough damage has been done by this,” Brown said.
Prosecutors remain convinced that there was probable cause to believe Brown sexually assaulted the girl and they planned to take the case to trial, Hupp said. The plea agreement reached a satisfactory resolution.
The kidnap charge is a more serious class of felony and Brown will have to register his address with police longer than if he’d been convicted of the child rape charge
, Hupp said. Also, the kidnap conviction is a strike against Brown under the state’s three-strike persistent offender law, he said.
“From our point of view, while the charge didn’t have the word sexual in the title of the crime,” it is a more serious crime with greater implications
, Hupp said. Brown secreted an underage student without her parents’ consent in the school where he was a leader, Hupp said.
Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies first arrested Brown on July 9, 2008, for investigation of unlawfully harboring the girl. Her parents reported to police that she had run away from home. Police found the girl using a trace on her phone.
He came to the private Christian school after he lost his previous job as a wrestling coach at Concrete High School in Skagit County. He was investigated there after reports of an inappropriate relationship with a female student.
That student denied she any sexual contact with Brown. She told Skagit County investigators they exchanged text messages, went to dinner together and Brown occasionally gave her a ride home. No charges were filed.
Brown and his wife were surrounded by family Friday as they left the courtroom. He is scheduled to be sentenced in November.
“This last year has been a nightmare — what I’ve put my family through,” Brown said. “When I get out, whatever amount of sentence, I want to get on with my life.”