A former police officer, twice acquitted of sexual violation charges, admits sending inappropriate texts to a 13-year-old girl but says he never misled the New Zealand Law Society as he attempts to embark on a career as a defence lawyer.
Ethan James Brown was found not guilty by a jury during a trial in the Auckland District Court during September 2012.
It was the second time the now 27-year-old was cleared of sexual violation accusations against two women.
After the verdicts, police launched an employment investigation into Brown, who later resigned from the force and went on to study criminal law.
Today, in the High Court at Auckland before Justice Edwin Wylie, the New Zealand Law Society (NZLS), which has declined Brown a certificate of character, claimed the former constable misled it over the police investigation and text messages he sent to a young girl in November 2012.
Brown, who has been employed by the Public Defence Service (PDS) since January 2017, denied misleading or deceiving the society in his application for admission as a barrister.
He sent an email to the NZLS last year about his admission, to which the NZLS replied it first needed to know of the findings of the police's disciplinary matter, the court heard.
Brown replied to the NZLS: "I did not have any disciplinary matter with my former employer and I was not disciplined."
He told the court today he was subject to an employment investigation but not a disciplinary matter and resigned from the police before any disciplinary action was taken.
But counsel for the NZLS Paul Collins alleged Brown misled the society.
"I wouldn't accept that I was being untrue or dishonest," Brown replied. "I wasn't intending to be dishonest."
Collins said Brown also failed to disclose to the NZLS the truth about a series of texts to a 13-year-old girl that had formed part of the police investigation.
The court heard there had been 13 female complainants making allegations against Brown.
Brown admitted exchanging messages with the 13-year-old but told the NZLS he thought she was older than 16 at the time.
However, Brown now accepts he "must have known after reading those text messages" that the woman was under 16. He also met the teen in an Auckland mall.
"I hadn't seen those text messages for a very long period of time," he told the court, when addressing the NZLS's concerns.
In the texts, Brown asked the teen for her name and age, which he later disclosed to police.
"I'm 13 'till March, with a little sad face symbol," Collins said the teen replied to Brown's request.
"Sweet, all good eh – how was your day anyway?" Brown texted back.
"Haha it was pretty boring, my Nan dragged me around the mall," said the teen.
In an affidavit, Brown also claimed: "It's hard to remember exactly what was in my mind at the time, I thought she was over 16 at the time because she told me ... She looked over 13 when I met her at the mall."
He further said of the mall encounter: "She told me she was over 16 - I remember being told that.
"It's seven years ago, I was immature, I don't know what was going through my head," he added for the court. "I must've known, my memory failed me."
Brown explained several times that he was "disgusted in myself" but denied he was promoting a sexual relationship with the teen, which Collins suggested was "essentially a sexual grooming encounter".
Further details in the texts were suppressed.
A second series of texts to another young woman occurred while Brown was on duty as a police officer, but Brown denied the claim he had taken the woman back to his house and had a sexual encounter.
"I know how serious things are and how serious things were," he said. "I'm ashamed of the whole lot ... I'm not a predator."
Brown's lawyer, Peter Davey, said there has been no suggestion of any "repetition of the behaviour" while Brown studied law and after he began working for the PDS.
Brown's criminal charges related to an alleged incident with a 20-year-old woman who had been a school friend. The woman said Brown held her down and sexually violated her at her home in late January 2010.
Brown said the incident never occurred.
A month before he was acquitted of that incident he was also found not guilty of one charge of sexual violation, attempted sexual violation and two counts of indecent assault, against an 18-year-old woman he met on Facebook.
Brown again said the incident never happened.
Justice Wylie reserved his decision.