Once again, the NFL has insisted that its inability to comprehend the repeated abuse suffered by a woman—Molly Brown, in this case, the ex-wife of New York Giants kicker Josh Brown—wasn’t due to its own incompetence. After blaming the victim a few months ago, NFL leaders decided this time around to blame records custodians, saying everything was the fault of an uncooperative King County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff himself pushed back, saying the problem was the NFL investigator was a “goofus” and a “yokel” who didn’t even identify himself as being with the NFL.
After the sheriff made his remarks, I asked the sheriff’s office for copies of all documented communication between them and the NFL, the Giants, and anyone working on behalf of the NFL. They showed that the sheriff said that the goofus (aka private investigator Rob Agnew) did not identify himself as being with the NFL. But he did get records anyway. They were released to him at the exact rate they were released to reporters.
The KCSO said it did a search of the online system it uses to respond to public record request. (It’s the same system I’ve been using with them.) They generated two logs from the customer previous identified by the sheriff: Robert Agnew. He gave them an email from comcast.net, a P.O. Box address, and no phone number. The KCSO said all communication with him was through the online system.
All communication with Agnew, they told me, was in bold. Lines that are not in bold, the sheriff’s office told me, are request management—essentially back-end steps like checking on a case or seeing if something can be released or needs redaction.
The records begin with Agnew reaching out on May 23, 2015, the day after Molly Brown’s second call to 911.
On May 29, a Deborah Katz called Molly Brown and told her that she needed to speak with her about the allegations because “the NFL had a policy about it.” (Katz works for T&M Protection, a private security corporation employed by the NFL.) As Molly said in an email to a King County sheriff’s detective:
I have not called back because I have no idea if this is a real thing or just a reporter, or if it is something that could possibly hurt me. I just know I got a very nervous feeling listening to the voicemail.
As for Agnew, the KCSO got back to him on June 2, saying that because of the open investigation they could only provide one record, the “superform,” which they did. The superform is what NJ Advanced Media would use to report on Aug. 17, 2016, about Josh Brown’s arrest.
On Oct. 7, 2015, Agnew put in another request for 911 dispatch records and any other available records. The KCSO received it.
A few weeks later, they responded that the investigation was still open.
From that point, their next message to him was on Aug. 19, saying they could finally release documents to him.
That was the same day the New York Daily News reported on how detailed law enforcement records showed the abuse Molly Brown said she suffered from her husband. Comparing this record to the same messages that I got from KCSO from my own request, the NFL appears to have gotten releases at about the same rate reporters were, and to have been receiving the exact same information.
In September and October, they were still keeping Agnew updated at the same rate as reporters on the May 21 and May 22 cases.
On Oct. 19, Agnew received the final installment of files—as did reporters.
Overall, the logs line up with the same rate of information given out to Deadspin and—judging by when articles arrived—other publications as well. Several members of the media filed requests and received the documents without issue.
Who is Agnew? He’s a Seattle-based investigator who, according to his LinkedIn, worked for the FBI from 1987-1992 as an “investigative photographic coordinator.” After that, he became a managing partner in Robert Agnew & Associates. Since May 2003, his LinkedIn says, he has worked for the NFL as an “NFL Security Representative to the Seattle Seahawks.” But a 1994 Seattle Times report (about when then-Seahawk Tyron Rodgers was charged with second-degree assault for trying to stop a repo man) named a Robert Agnew as someone “who works for NFL security.”
The name of an ex-FBI private investigator named Robert Agnew also came up in the Indianapolis Star investigation of how USA Gymnastics kept allegations of abuse from being investigated by police. It’s unclear if the NFL’s Agnew is the same person referenced in the Star’s report. Deadspin reached out to Agnew for comment via email and phone, but received no response.
Our request also turned up several emails from the KCSO responding to reporters, including those working for the NFL’s media arm. Max Meyer from NFL Media asked on Aug. 18th asking for “a report involving him from 2015" and King County responded to him within hours. James Kratch of New Jersey Advanced Media requested any documents pertaining to the case on on Aug. 24, and received them shortly after. Thomas Warren, an assignment editor at NFL.com, asked for the rest of the Josh Brown documents on Wednesday and promptly received them.
As for whether the NFL or Agnew himself ever requested the Browns’s divorce file—a public record that served as the basis of Deadspin reporting over a month ago—while we did call the clerk of courts in King County, they told us that they do not keep records of who asks for documents.
Deadspin staff writers Lindsey Adler and Patrick Redford contributed to this report.