The head coach of the Real Monarchs soccer team has been suspended after being charged with multiple misdemeanor counts of domestic violence and reportedly trying to persuade his accuser to stop talking to police and prosecutors about her allegations.
Mark Briggs, 36, is scheduled to appear in Draper’s justice court June 12 to answer the charges, including two counts of domestic assault, domestic violence in the presence of a child and witness tampering, according to court records. All are class B misdemeanors.
After The Salt Lake Tribune reported the charges Tuesday, the Monarchs’ parent club, Real Salt Lake, suspended Briggs, according to a statement. Briggs has been placed on administrative leave while the club investigates the allegations.
Jamison Olave, an assistant coach with the Monarchs, will take over coaching duties while Briggs is suspended, starting with Tuesday’s match against Sacramento Republic FC, according to the statement.
The club said it will not comment further until its investigation is complete.
According to the allegations Briggs’ ex-partner Marissa Hankins made to police, the assault charges stem from two disputes in August and November.
The Tribune generally doesn’t identify alleged victims of domestic assault. Hankins gave the newspaper permission to use her name, saying she believes the abuse won’t stop unless the accusations and her story come to light.
Briggs’ attorney, Greg Skordas, denied the allegations against Briggs, characterizing them as a product of a “divisive” custody battle.
“I believe that after we sit down with [the prosecutors] and talk to them about the facts and history of the case, [the charges] will be dismissed,” Skordas said.
He declined to comment on what he planned to tell prosecutors.
Draper City Prosecutor David Lassetter did not immediately return The Tribune’s request for comment Tuesday. The United Soccer League, in a statement Tuesday night, said it was “very saddened and disturbed by the allegations.”
“The USL stands firmly against domestic violence, and all forms of abuse and assault — adopting a zero-tolerance policy for players, staff and front office personnel.”
In the August clash, Briggs and Hankins were lying in bed with their young daughter when Hankins attempted to grab Briggs’ cellphone so he would pay attention to her, she said.
“At that point,” Hankins said, “he jumped up off the bed, pulling his arm out from under our daughter. I jumped up at the same time. Once his feet [hit] the ground he lunged toward me, called me a 'stupid f------ b----' as he grabbed my neck with his right hand and my right shoulder with his left hand while pushing me toward our bathroom.”
The two struggled, Hankins said, and she fell on to a mirror, breaking it and hitting her head on the tile floor. Hankins alleges Briggs still had his hands around her throat, choking her.
“He was screaming and said, ‘If you ever f---ing lay a hand on her again, I’ll f---ing kill you.’ I am not 100 [percent] on exact wording of [what he said] but he absolutely said ‘I’ll f---ing kill you,’” Hankins said to police.
Hankins said she wasn’t sure whom Briggs meant by “her” at the time but that Briggs later told her she had hit their daughter trying to get the phone, and that’s why he reacted.
Hankins denies hitting or touching their daughter.
Hankins said she left their home in Draper soon afterward to go to the police station, calling her sister on the way. Hankins said she turned around when she got to the police station because it appeared closed. She also said she feared what might happen if the police came to her home because of a previous custody agreement involving her other children, as well as the possible repercussions with Briggs’ job and his visa status.
Briggs, who is working in the United States, is from the United Kingdom.
“I did not want to risk Mark being removed from the home in front of the children, risk a modification of custody agreement of my three older children, or the legal consequences Mark would face, which could impact his career and immigration status, also jeopardizing custody of my children,” she told police.
The second clash occurred in early November, when Briggs, Hankins and their children were going to an arcade, and Hankins found a cup with lipstick on it on the vehicle’s floorboard.
According to the woman’s statements to police, Briggs first blamed Hankins’ teenage son for the cup and then “became extremely defensive and angry.”
Despite saying she didn’t want to fight in front of the children, Hankins alleges Briggs started swearing and told her to get out of the car. The woman said she was nervous, and as she tried to leave, Briggs shut the door with her leg partially outside the vehicle.
A fourth charge appears to stem from an alleged agreement Briggs had with Real Salt Lake.
According to court documents filed in Hankins’ civil suit against Briggs, the coach was given $60,000 from an RSL representative to give to Hankins to relocate herself and her children outside Utah after the organization learned Briggs allegedly was having an affair with another woman.
Hankins told The Tribune that Briggs had a contract written up in December asking her to stop speaking with prosecutors and police in exchange for the money, which Hankins says wasn’t part of the original deal with Briggs’ employer.
The contract, provided to The Tribune by Hankins, designates that Hankins would receive $31,000 and alleges Briggs gave Hankins $19,000 during the week of Dec. 11 to 17.
By signing the contract, Hankins would have agreed to “not pursue any pending or future legal accusations stemming from any past incidents,” in addition to other requirements.
Skordas on Tuesday confirmed knowledge of the contract — though he said he hasn’t seen it — and of the $60,000 payment it references.
A source close to the soccer team, who agreed to speak with The Tribune on background because the person wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said the organization has known about the allegations for months but has thus far not punished Briggs because it doesn’t believe the domestic violence accusations.
“We have not seen any fire that begets all this smoke,” the source said.
When The Tribune spoke with Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill about the case in March, he said his office had declined to press charges because the evidence didn’t appear to constitute a felony or class A misdemeanor crime.
However, he said, “Because based on certain statements, there certainly seems to potentially be a viable option to screen what we could call DV [domestic violence] assault related charges, but we did not believe it rose to a substantial injury, to be a class A [misdemeanor] or any felonious conduct that would be in our jurisdiction to review.”
The Real Monarchs are scheduled to host Sacramento Republic FC in Herriman on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Clarification: May 29, 2018 2:13 p.m. >> An earlier version of this story quoted attorney Greg Skordas as saying allegations his client Mark Briggs had been offered money by Briggs' employer to relocate his then-girlfriend were slanderous. He has since retracted that statement and confirmed the existence of a contract discussing the funds.