SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle prosecutors on Wednesday dropped a misdemeanor charge that former celebrity chief executive Dan Price grabbed a woman’s throat after attempting kiss her, citing problems in proving their case, court records show.
Price, 38, gained national attention for raising employees’ salaries and slashing his own while he ran Gravity Payments, a credit card processing company. He resigned from the company last summer after being charged with fourth-degree assault and reckless driving in February 2022.
In a statement emailed by his lawyer, Price said he had never physically or sexually abused anyone.
“Now that these false allegations are behind me, I plan to take some time to reflect on how I can best engage on the economic justice issues that matter most to me,” Price said in a statement emailed by his lawyer.
Charging documents said a woman called Seattle police on Jan. 24 to report she had met Price at a restaurant four days earlier. She said the two had communicated on Instagram about work and that she had reached out to him about meeting to discuss “professional matters,” according to charging papers.
Seattle prosecutors said Price cornered the woman in his Tesla after a dinner meeting, tried to kiss her and grabbed her throat when she refused. Price then drove her to a parking lot, tried to kiss her again and drove “doughnuts” with her in the car, prosecutors said.
But on Wednesday, they dropped the charges in response to a motion filed by Price’s attorney, Mark Middaugh. The motion noted that in an interview with the defense team, the woman said that while Price put his hand on her neck, he never grabbed her throat or constricted her windpipe or caused any pain.
The woman also said she had sometimes interacted with men who sent flirtatious messages on Instagram because they“end up commissioning a huge painting” of her artwork, and that she hoped to capitalize on Price’s connections, Middaugh said in the legal filing.
“It is shocking that the police referred this case to the prosecutor for criminal charges without conducting any follow-up investigation, interviewing any witnesses other than the complainant, or even asking Mr. Price what happened,” Middaugh said in an email Tuesday.
Price shot into the national spotlight in 2015 when he said he would raise employee salaries to $70,000. At that time, his 120 employees were paid an average salary of $48,000 a year.
Price also cut his own salary from nearly $1 million to $70,000, cementing a name for himself in the business world as a progressive CEO fighting for higher wages and better conditions for the average worker.