By Mark Fainaru-Wada, ESPN Staff Writer
KIRKLAND, Wash. -- It was early in the morning on June 21, 2014, and Hope Solo had just been arrested on two counts of domestic violence. The police were trying to book her into jail, but Solo was so combative that she had to be forced to the ground, prompting her to yell at one officer, "You're such a b----. You're scared of me because you know that if the handcuffs were off, I'd kick your ass."
Solo, perhaps the best women's soccer goalie in the world, had repeatedly hurled insults at the officers processing her arrest, suggesting that two jailers were having sex and calling another officer a "14-year-old boy." When asked to remove a necklace, an apparently drunk Solo told the officer that the piece of jewelry was worth more than he made in a year.
Those details are laid out in police records, and coupled with two sworn depositions obtained by Outside the Lines, other documents and interviews with one of Solo's alleged victims, they shed new light on what happened that night at her half-sister's home in suburban Seattle. The information stands in stark contrast to the image Solo has presented in court papers, on Facebook, in an espnW article this week and, most pointedly, during a February appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America." Speaking just weeks after her case had been dismissed, Solo told GMA host Robin Roberts that she was a victim, not a criminal; an embattled woman who, as she always predicted, would be vindicated; a falsely accused athlete who had her day in court, faced the facts head on and was liberated by the truth.
There was one problem, though, with Solo's version: It wasn't entirely accurate. In fact, as the 33-year-old Solo prepares to lead the United States into Monday's opening-round match of the World Cup, her case is not over; the facts have never been aired in open court, and she has not been cleared. Rather, Solo's case in Kirkland Municipal Court was dismissed by Judge Michael Lambo on procedural grounds, and prosecutors, in a rare move that required city administrator approval, have filed an appeal with the Superior Court of Washington. Prosecutors are scheduled to file their argument by July 13, with the defense due to respond by Aug. 10. Oral arguments are scheduled for Sept. 11.
Over several weeks, Solo declined multiple interview requests for this story. At a recent press conference promoting the World Cup, Outside the Lines asked her about the case. She wouldn't answer.
"I'm here to talk about the World Cup and soccer," Solo said. "What I can tell you is that I'm in the best place in my life both on the field and off the field. I have great teammates behind me, a great coaching staff, and I'm just honestly really excited for my third World Cup."
Solo did give exclusive access to espnW recently, though, for a story that appears in the current edition of ESPN The Magazine and on espnW. In it, Solo again denied assaulting anyone and spoke of her frustration with media coverage of the incident and how she has been portrayed: "From here on out, no matter what happens, I'll forever be associated with domestic violence." Solo, the story details, didn't hesitate to address the June incident when asked about it: "As she revisits the night and its protracted aftermath, Solo begins to cry. She feels stupid, she says, palming tears from her cheeks. For what happened, yes, but more for trusting people she now views as poisonous. 'It was hell,' she says. And then, 'I should have known.'"
Solo is partly referring to her half-sister, Teresa Obert. There was a time, Obert says, when she and Solo were best friends, when she wouldn't have missed this Women's World Cup tournament in Canada for anything. But it was Obert and her then-17-year-old son -- Solo's nephew -- who were the alleged victims in the domestic violence case. And now, Obert says, after enduring not only a beating at the hands of her sister, but, worse still, watching Solo appear on national television and paint her son as the aggressor, that relationship is over.
Obert, 43, says she never wanted anything bad to happen to her sister, that she was hoping the case would go away and that prosecutors wouldn't press charges. She imagined Solo might come out of jail and apologize, and then everybody could get on with their lives.
But Obert says she became compelled to speak extensively for the first time about that night because Solo has continued to cast herself as a victim. The "Good Morning America" appearance, she says, was the last straw.
Obert's son, who recently turned 18 but whom ESPN is not naming because he was a minor at the time of the incident, declined to be interviewed by Outside the Lines. He's big, 6-foot-8, 270 pounds, and Solo, who is 5-foot-9, 150 pounds, invoked her nephew's size to make her case to GMA -- something she would state again to espnW.
"I'm not going to go into all of the details, uh, but it was a scary night," Solo said to GMA. "I was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of my 17-year-old nephew, who is 6-foot-9, 280 pounds. I was struck over the head, and concussed pretty severely. It was a very scary night."
Obert says she couldn't believe what she was seeing.
"I felt like I had just been kicked in the head," she says. "She should have been happy, but then, randomly, she goes on 'Good Morning America' and lies. I was very upset. It never had anything to do with size. She has tried to make him feel small his whole life. He's not aggressive. She's a trained athlete. She's strong."
Solo's lawyer, in response to a question about evidence from police reports, depositions and statements suggesting Solo was lying, responded with a statement saying: "Police reports and other court documents clearly demonstrate that the alleged victims radically changed their stories on multiple occasions and twice refused to answer questions under oath, despite court orders. Had the case proceeded to trial and the witnesses been cross-examined under oath subject to the penalty of perjury, the defense would have proven that Teresa's son, not Hope, was the true aggressor, and that Hope suffered a concussion as a result of her nephew's unlawful conduct."A quiet start to a chaotic night
What follows is a description of the night in question, through the prism of police reports, sworn depositions given by Obert and her son, a transcript of a 911 call from the Oberts' home, and a series of interviews with Obert:
On June 20, the Oberts went out to dinner and then to a park with other family members before arriving home around 10 p.m. There, they found Solo parked outside their house, alone in her car. Obert wasn't surprised to see her sister. She said Solo had called Obert while the family was at the park, telling them she was upset because she had been fighting with her husband, former NFL player Jerramy Stevens. Solo's relationship with Obert and her son had become unsettled in the past couple years, and the teenager was not happy to see his aunt. But Obert asked him to try be helpful, and together they got into Solo's car.
"She was swigging out of a bottle of wine that was in her cup holder," Obert said during her deposition. "She was drunk."
Solo was insisting she needed to go find Stevens, even though she had a red-eye flight to the East Coast to join her professional soccer team, the Seattle Reign FC. Eventually, she was convinced to come inside the house. Once inside, Solo called her coach to explain that she wouldn't be arriving as scheduled and changed her flight, Obert and her son each said in their depositions.
Solo continued to drink, and Obert says she had a couple glasses of wine with her sister.
"I was not drunk at all," Obert said in her deposition, which is under court-ordered seal but was obtained by Outside the Lines. She described herself as buzzed but, "I knew everything that was happening." Her son told police Solo "drank a lot" that night and, in his deposition, he described enduring "a lot of verbal abuse" from Solo throughout the evening.
The night escalated to violence shortly before 1 a.m., as Solo and the teenager exchanged a series of insults. The teenager has performed in local theater for years, and at one point he suggested to Solo that being a good actor required "having an athletic state of mind," according to a police report. Solo responded that he was too "fat, unathletic and crazy" ever to be an athlete, the teenager and Obert told police. He told Solo she needed to "get her c--- face out of the house," and then walked away. Obert also suggested Solo should leave at that point.
Instead, Solo followed him into the home's converted garage, where the teenager then yelled for his mother, prompting Solo to call him a "pussy" and a "mama's boy," he said to police and in his deposition, which is also under seal but was obtained by Outside the Lines. He then told Solo, "You'll never know what it's like to be a mother, because even if you did have children, they would have the most unhappy childhoods because you have no compassion." He told police Solo lunged at him to "take a swing," hitting him lightly in the face. He said she charged and struck him multiple times. Obert, who had come into the room, said in her deposition and in an interview with Outside the Lines that her son briefly subdued Solo and she seemed to calm down. Obert told the teenager to let his aunt up off the ground. "She's done," Obert recalled telling her son, according to her deposition. He didn't believe his mom, but she said, "No, she's done. You can let go, she's done."
But when Obert's son let Solo go, he told police she "immediately grabbed his hair, pulled his head down and started punching him in the face repeatedly." Later, in the deposition, he said Solo "jumped on top of me and started bashing my head into the cement" inside the garage.
"She grabbed him by the head and she kept slamming him into the cement over and over again," Obert told Outside the Lines. "So I came from behind her, and I pulled her over and, you know, to get her off my son. And then, once she got off, she started punching me in the face over and over again."
At about 12:50 a.m., Obert told her son to call 911.
As the dispatcher called Kirkland police, Obert's son shouted into the phone, "Hope Solo is going psychotic; she's f---king beating people up, and we need help."
By this point, Solo had left the garage and gone into the living room area, Obert told Outside the Lines. Obert's son said in his deposition that he grabbed a broken BB gun and pointed it at Solo to try to get her out of the house. (Solo told espnW the gun was a working handgun.) Obert described Solo leaving reluctantly while pounding on doors and screaming that she wanted her phone, wallet and keys. But, she and her son said, Solo had gone around to the back of the house and entered the living room through another set of doors. Obert says she rushed from the garage toward Solo, who then shoved her down the two steps leading from the garage back into the house.
Obert's son said to the police and in his deposition that he then grabbed a wooden broomstick -- he alternately described it as a paint-roller pole -- and hit Solo over the head with it, breaking it.
"She just turned around and looked at him and started to walk toward him," Obert said of Solo's reaction. "That's all, no flinch, no nothing. Her eyes just got big and she turned, nothing."
That led the teenager to grab an aluminum mop. Then there was a knock on the door.
Sgt. Phil Goguen was one of the first officers on the scene. As he approached the house, he heard a female voice yell, "Get out of my house!" and shortly thereafter a male yelling the same. When he knocked on the door, it was immediately opened by Obert's son, who said, according to police, "Good, the police are here, come in and get her out of our house!" The teenager was holding both halves of the wooden stick and a metal pole, both of which he dropped when Goguen ordered him to do so.
According to Goguen's report, Obert was highly agitated and emotional; both she and her son "showed signs of fatigue or exhaustion. Their faces were flush and beads of sweat were visible on or about their faces." Obert was screaming, pointing to another room and saying her sister had attacked her son then punched her in the face. Her son was "animated and insistent that 'Hope' attacked him and his mother."
As Goguen walked farther into the house, he immediately recognized Solo. She was described as "calm, but visibly upset. Her eyes were red and bloodshot." As Goguen began to talk with Solo, Obert and her son were interviewed separately by other officers.
Obert's son, according to Officer Elizabeth Voss, had redness around his nose and left jawbone and a "bleeding cut on the bottom of his left ear, just above the earlobe." His T-shirt was ripped and his arms were "bright red and had scratch marks."
Obert "had bruising on the left side of her face," and "a large scratch mark on the right side of her neck," according to Officer Chuck Pierce. He wrote that Obert's clothing was in "disarray" and it "appeared she could not stand."
Goguen interviewed Solo. She described getting into an argument with her nephew, who she said was an actor and into the arts. She said at one point she called him overweight, and she started to cry as she told Goguen how "her sister always protects" the teenager. Goguen observed that "When [Solo] spoke, her speech was slurred and I could smell the odor of intoxicating liquor on her breath."
When Goguen asked if the argument had become physical, Solo turned away and cried. She grabbed her head at one point and said it hurt. When he asked what happened, she said her nephew "struck her with a stick." Goguen asked why, but Solo didn't answer. As she continued to cry, she said the teenager was a "scary person" and she was "protecting herself." When Goguen asked Solo if she had any bumps or bruises," she shrugged her shoulders." He asked to examine her head but she "adamantly declined." Goguen wrote that he didn't notice any other signs of injuries.
"It was apparent to me [Solo] was unwilling to go into detail of exactly what happened," Goguen wrote. She continued to deny pushing or hitting her sister or nephew, and when asked why they were telling other officers she had done just that, Solo replied, "I did not hit anyone. He hit me with a stick."
Goguen then met with officers Voss and Pierce to discuss the various stories. Based upon Obert's and her son's "obvious" injuries, they believed there was probable cause to arrest Solo, according to documents. When Goguen returned to Solo, advised her that she was under arrest and placed her in handcuffs, she became upset and questioned why she was being arrested. She again insisted she had hit no one.
Soon after, Goguen contacted Lt. Mike Murray, the Kirkland Police Department's public information officer, to make him aware of the arrest, given Solo's public profile. Murray told Outside the Lines his department gets many cases in which officers must determine who was the aggressor -- who either "started the fight or went overboard and finished it."
"When [Goguen] called me and told me they had placed [Solo] under arrest and were going to book her, there was no doubt in his mind that she was the primary aggressor," Murray said. "And the other officers, it was clear to them that she was the primary aggressor."
Solo was taken to the Kirkland jail for booking on two counts of domestic violence in the fourth degree. Over the next few hours, Cpl. Robert Russell was among those who processed Solo. In his report, Russell wrote that as Solo arrived at the Kirkland jail, "I could hear the arrestee yelling profanities inside the patrol vehicle." As he escorted her to jail, he observed that "she showed signs of being intoxicated. Her eyes were bloodshot, speech was slurred, lack of good coordination, and the smell of intoxicants coming from her breath were present."
Solo was repeatedly insulting Russell and Goguen, according to the report, and it was Goguen whom she informed that her necklace was worth more than he made in a year. As Russell was fingerprinting Solo, she "made numerous statements that I was not worth anything, and should be proud to have such authority."
Shortly before 3 a.m. Russell wrote that he and Goguen transported Solo to another jail facility, where she would spend the next two-plus days. There, according to Russell's report, Solo continued with her insults of Goguen and Russell "to incite some reaction" and then turned her attention to the jail staff. As she was being told to walk to the search area, Solo pulled away from an officer, leading her to be taken to a holding cell. There, Russell wrote, "officers took [Solo] to the ground to gain her compliance." It was at this point, Russell wrote, that Solo told one of the officers that if she weren't in handcuffs, "I'd kick your ass."
Maybrown, Solo's lawyer, in response to questions about his client's behavior, wrote: "Any of us would be upset at being wrongly arrested." He stated that had the case gone to trial, he would have presented a "renowned concussion expert" who had concluded her behavior was consistent with someone who suffered a "significant head injury" rather than being drunk. "Hope was not intoxicated; she was concussed."Solo and U.S. Soccer move forward
On June 26, five days after the incident, Solo issued an apology on Facebook to her "fans, teammates, coaches, marketing partners and the entire US Soccer and Seattle Reign FC communities for my involvement in a highly unfortunate incident this past weekend." She added, "I love my family dearly. We, like all families, have our challenges but my sincere hope is that we are able to resolve this situation as a family." And of the case, she wrote, "Due to pending legal issues, I cannot comment further at this time. However, I am confident in the legal process and believe my name will be cleared."
As the court case began to wind its way through the system, Solo continued with her soccer career. Despite later saying she was "concussed pretty severely," she was expected to attend and participate in all practices with the Reign days after she was released from jail, according to a statement released on the team's Facebook page. She suited up for a game one week after the incident but didn't play. There was no report of an injury.
Meanwhile, U.S. Soccer, which oversees all national teams, including the Women's World Cup squad, remained largely silent as it faced questions about whether to punish Solo. Four days after the incident, federation president Sunil Gulati said Solo and her representatives would be asked about the case the following day. It was another three months before U.S. Soccer was heard from again on the topic.
"From the beginning, we considered the information available and have taken a deliberate and thoughtful approach regarding Hope Solo's status with the national team," Gulati said in a statement issued Sept. 22. "Based on that information, U.S. Soccer stands by our decision to allow her to participate with the team as the legal process unfolds. If new information becomes available, we will carefully consider it."
It's unclear what, if anything, U.S. Soccer did to look into the case. Obert says neither she nor her son was contacted.
"I was surprised they didn't investigate," she says.
Outside the Lines found no evidence that anyone with U.S. Soccer contacted prosecutors or police involved with the case, either. Public records requests made to the Kirkland Police Department do not appear to reflect any attempt by officials with U.S. Soccer to obtain the police reports from the case. Murray told Outside the Lines he was not aware of anyone from U.S. Soccer contacting the Kirkland police for information about the case.
Gulati declined repeated requests to be interviewed. Asked what the federation did to look into the case, spokesman Neil Buethe said: "Well, we're not going to get into all the details of what those specifics were, but obviously we had conversations with Hope and conversations with others." Asked who those others were, he said, "I don't think we're going to talk in detail on who was part of those conversations."
Off-the-field, the case against Solo began to run into trouble.
Maybrown, Solo's attorney, pressed a judge to take sworn depositions from Obert and her son. Washington state law requires only that the defense team have an opportunity to interview alleged victims before trial, but a debate about whether the Oberts would have to undergo sworn, transcribed depositions would become contentious. Ultimately, Judge Lambo ordered Obert and her son to be deposed, and, on Dec. 19, they each were questioned for about 90 minutes by Maybrown.
Maybrown pressed Obert and the teenager about inconsistencies in their stories, particularly pointing out the differences between what Obert told police and what she was saying to him during the deposition. Asked to explain the discrepancies, Obert told Maybrown: "I was hysterical. I could hardly stand from being punched. I was very upset."
He asked them both why there was no mention in the police report of Solo slamming the teenager's head into the cement. And why, when they sought treatment the next day, records didn't reflect they had told doctors that the boy's head had been slammed into the cement. Maybrown asked why Obert had asked an officer not to include in his report that her son hit Solo over the head with a broomstick. And why she told police she had been in the bathroom when Solo first attacked her son but now was saying she returned from the bathroom in time to see the whole thing. And why, rather than holding onto the broomstick and the broken gun, they had gotten rid of them.
Their primary responses were that the night was a crazy blur, that they did the best they could given the physical and emotional state they were in that night and the next day. And maybe the officers missed a thing or two that they said, or wrote something down in the wrong order. Obert also told Outside the Lines she still felt compelled to protect her sister and summarized some elements of what happened. As to the suggestion they destroyed evidence, Obert says they showed the evidence to the officers, but officers didn't seize the broom or gun. She says she held onto the items for a couple of months but eventually destroyed them as part of an effort to cleanse themselves of the incident.
Obert also pointed to Facebook posts by her son, reviewed by Outside the Lines but taken down at her request, in the hours after the incident to argue his story was consistent: "Some days you just wake up and feel like an Olympic gold medalist grabbed you by the hair and bashed your head repeatedly into a concrete floor."
Maybrown also suggested the Oberts might be out for a money grab, asking if Obert and her son had discussed the possibility of suing Solo.
"Yes, for slander for what has been said in the newspaper," Obert said.
Obert's son demonstrated a quick wit and biting view toward Solo as he recounted the details of the evening in his deposition. At one point, reflecting on the fact that they had been listening to a Bob Dylan album shortly before the night got physical, the teenager said, "The only person who could beat the s--- out of somebody during Bob Dylan's 'Bringing It All Back Home' is Hope Solo." He later added that he planned to write a song about the whole episode; he would call it, "The Hope Solo Path Of Destruction."
The transcripts reflect Obert and her son answered virtually all of Maybrown's questions -- except ones that sought medical information they and their lawyer believed was private and unrelated to the domestic violence incident, particularly from Obert's son. On this point, their lawyer, Mary Gaston, repeatedly objected, citing medical privilege, and her clients refused to answer. Among other things, Maybrown appeared to be trying to suggest that the boy was mentally unstable and, thus, unreliable or prone to behavioral problems.
With the case scheduled to go to trial in January, Maybrown returned to court and told the judge that Obert and her son should be forced to answer all of his questions. He filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that his ability to defend Solo was hampered by the alleged victims being uncooperative and by the prosecution announcing several witnesses on short notice. Judge Lambo ordered Obert and her son to appear for another set of depositions, but Obert says she left town as soon as she heard that.
"I told [my son] he would never have to be alone with [Maybrown] again unless he was in court, you know, at trial," Obert says. "It was so upsetting."
On Jan 13, Lambo dismissed the case, citing Obert and her son being uncooperative and the prosecution not adhering to procedural discovery rules regarding witnesses.
On Feb. 9, the city of Kirkland filed an appeal with the Superior Court of Washington. Prosecutor Tamara McElyea would not discuss the specifics of the case but told Outside the Lines the decision to appeal was "very rare. In fact, I believe I was told this was the first time in like seven years. ... We had to get approval all the way from the city administration, and our bosses did that. It was not a decision made willy-nilly."
Two weeks later, Solo appeared on "Good Morning America."
"I had to keep reminding myself, and my husband helped me through it, to be patient because once all the facts surface, it is going to get dismissed and all charges are going to be cleared," Solo said. "And that day was wonderful. It was a wonderful day, but it was a long [seven] months."'It's like a death. It's worse.'
Nearly a year removed from the incident, Obert appears tormented by what has become of her relationship with Solo. On the one hand, in an effort to purge Solo from their lives, she and her son have ritualistically burned soccer jerseys and Nike gear they were given by Solo over the years. (Solo has had an endorsement deal with Nike, and the company issued a statement last September saying it was sticking by her. In her interview with espnW, she said, "I have lost my endorsements.")
"We started out, you know, every time something would be in the newspaper, we'd like burn something," Obert says. "It was my son's idea and my son is -- he meditates -- he's a good boy, you know? It was his idea and we did some sage or whatever; we did, you know, aromatherapy. Believe it or not, it was super healing. And then we just continued since it felt so good to keep burning things."
During his deposition, Obert's son said, "My mother and I have been having spiritual séances and getting rid of objects that hold bad spiritual energy in them."
Obert also says they have taken to avoiding using Solo's name or the word "hope."
"When we write texts and stuff, we try not to use her word, her name," Obert says, explaining they will refer to Solo as "H." "We use 'desire' or we try not even to use the word."
After the incident, a temporary restraining order keeping Solo from having contact with the Oberts was put in place. In January, as the case was being dismissed, Obert applied for and was granted a long-term order. It covers two years and precludes Solo from coming within 1,000 feet of Obert and her son.
And yet Obert also can seem overcome by grief, unable to believe that this is what has become of her life and her family.
"I think it's so tragic, it's so sad," she says. "... And I know me going [public], this is just sealing the nail in the coffin for our relationship. I know that. And I cried about it. I've done all these different emotions but I realized if I do not stick up for my son and the truth, then I'm doing a disservice to him as a mother.
"And so the future, I know we won't be in each other's lives, you know? Because I know she is so strong-willed. She'll never tell the truth. And she'll hate me for doing this. She probably believes her story at this point. So, yeah. I guess, you know, I did mourn my sister, have gone through every emotion. It's like a death. It's worse."http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/12976615/detailed-look-hope-solo-domestic-violence-case-includes-reports-being-belligerent-jail
Very long but very important read about US keeper Hope Solo's domestic abuse charges last fall. Mark Fainaru-Wada is a fantastic journalist. He broke a lot of the NFL concussion stories too.