In the April 6 Seattle Times story that published allegations from three people who accused Seattle mayor Ed Murray of child rape and abuse, the Times reported that one of the alleged victims had tried to make his story public a decade ago.
That person, Jeff Simpson, went so far as to hire a lawyer to pursue a civil suit against Murray. But Simpson’s lawyer, Brian Williams, dropped the case. In a letter to Simpson, he cited his firm’s “evaluation of the claim” as the reason it was dropped.
Today, Williams says, that evaluation concerned the statute of limitations, not his client’s credibility.
Williams said that when he interviewed Lloyd Anderson—another alleged Murray victim—for the 2008 case, he initially believed he had enough corroboration for Simpson's claims to go to court.
"The reason we did not [pursue the case] is because Jeff Simpson had contacted law enforcement years before he came to me, there had been some investigation, and based on the nature of what had gone on, we were unwilling to proceed with the lawsuit because of a problem with the statute of the limitations," Williams said in a phone call this morning. "And if you file a lawsuit that isn't considered timely, some would consider that frivolous. There's only so much you can do as a civil lawyer."
According to the Times story, Simpson first accused Murray of sexual abuse in 1984, when he was a teen and Murray was 29. The Times reported that Simpson spoke to a social worker and a detective, but no charges were filed.
In Oregon, the statute of limitations for a child sex abuse civil case means that a child sexual abuse survivor can file a civil suit until that person is 40 years old, or up until five years after the survivor remembers or discovers the abuse. In 2008, Jeff Simpson would have turned 41 that October.
Tougher cases are when the victim knows he's had problems stemming from the abuse for longer than five years, Barbara Long, a Portland sexual misconduct attorney says. "If this victim fit all the pieces together and knew he had been damaged because of the abuse longer than five years, he's kind out of luck under Oregon law," Long said.
"I encouraged Jeff to go to the media back at the time, but in terms of a lawsuit, I didn't feel like there was anything I could do to help him," Williams said.
Simpson did go to the media. He went to the Seattle Times and KGW, his local TV station, among others. His efforts yielded nothing, until now.
Williams confirmed over the phone that Murray's lawyers told him that Simpson was a con artist and a liar. But Williams said that he believed his client.
"My sense was that [Simpson] wanted people to know what had happened to him," Williams said. "So to the extent that people are accusing him of being a gold-digger, or wanting compensation then or now, I would disagree."
"That was not his primary motivation back then," Williams continued. "And certainly I see a lot of people who that's all they care about. Jeff was also someone who was open and candid with me with his lengthy criminal record, from the first time I met him. He admitted a lot of unfavorable stuff that's not always easy to talk about."
Murray was just a state senator at the time of the aborted lawsuit, Williams added, and wasn't a man of wealth or a public figure like he is today.
Williams said he had no contact with D.H., the alleged victim bringing the current lawsuit against Murray. Simpson also said he had no contact with D.H., and told The Stranger that he only knew another alleged victim had come forward when a Times reporter called him the night before the April 6 story broke.
Update 2:05 p.m.: Williams forwarded the correspondence he had with Ed Murray's then-attorney, Katherine Heekin, in December of 2007, months before he decided to drop the suit. In these letters, Heekin accuses Simpson of being "totally untrustworthy" because of his criminal record.
In Williams's response he says, "no matter what kind of history of lying and criminal conduct Mr. Simpson has, he may, in fact, be a victim of sexual abuse by your client." He also notes that he was sensitive to the statute of limitations issue at the time and wanted to find out more.
9:53 a.m.: This post has been updated.