Mayor Ed Murray says the withdrawal of a lawsuit from a man who accused him of sexual abuse "vindicates" him and said he will "consider" his "options" with regard to running for re-election again as a write-in candidate.
Delvonn Heckard, the man who dropped a lawsuit that he filed in April, alleged that Murray raped and molested him in the 1980s, when Heckard was a teenager and Murray was in his 30s. Murray denies the allegations.
"This lawsuit was a painful experience," Murray told reporters in a press conference at City Hall today. "It was a painful experience for victims of abuse, sexual abuse. It was a painful experience for the vulnerable people who seemed to have been exploited by an attorney with a publicity agenda. It was a painful experience for people in the LGBT community who were subjected to the most despicable stereotype of who gay men are."
Murray also apologized for a legal strategy in which he painted his accusers as untrustworthy, which some said silenced victims of sexual assault. "To the victims of sexual abuse who were hurt by my initial response to this story, I am sorry," he said. "Victims of sexual abuse must be heard."
The allegations ultimately ended his re-election campaign last month. Since the filing deadline for candidates passed on May 19, there's no way for his name to return to the mayoral ballot. When asked whether he would continue restarting his campaign for re-election, Murray said, "I will consider my options."
Along with Heckard, two other men, Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Anderson, made similar allegations against Murray but were not involved in the suit. A fourth man, Maurice Lavon Jones, came forward in a declaration filed in the case in May, saying that Murray paid him for sex. Murray has repeatedly denied the allegations. He acknowledges he knew Simpson and Anderson, but denies ever meeting Heckard.
When asked about the other accusers today, Murray characterized Simpson as a troubled foster child he cared for. Murray said that when Simpson was "in school, I would call the police... I put him in drug treatment." When Simpson "had problems with me being gay," Murray said, "I got his school counselor to counsel him." Murray said Simpson wrote him letters until 2007 "asking for forgiveness or expressing his love." Murray did not address the allegations from Anderson or Jones.
Simpson first reported the alleged abuse as a teenager, but Portland prosecutors did not file charges against Murray at the time. Later, about a decade ago, Simpson considered a legal case against Murray but his lawyer did not pursue the case because of the statute of limitations.
As The Stranger has reported, Simpson acknowledges his own criminal record and substance abuse. He also acknowledges writing to Murray as an adult because “I hadn’t gotten to the point in my life yet where I was ready to let Ed go as the fantasy I had in my life."
Murray also defended himself based on the fact that he was out as a gay man and actively dating at the time of the alleged abuse. "During the time in question, I had a boyfriend that I lived with and later on dated other people and eventually met my now husband," Murray said. "That’s who I was: an out person."
Simpson told The Stranger over the phone shortly after the press conference, which he says he watched, “Once again I have let him victimize me.”
“What is he is trying to get everybody to believe is because of this momentary setback, he’s found an excellent opportunity to grandstand in front of everybody and say, ‘I’m innocent,'” Simpson said, his voice breaking at times. “No you’re not. Not only are you not innocent, you haven’t done anything to prove you’re innocent.”
Simpson also confirmed some of the claims Murray made about their acquaintance in the '80s, including that Murray fostered him, called the police on him when he skipped school, and put him in treatment. He added that he would take a lie detector test.
In a motion seeking to drop the case, Heckard's lawyer Lincoln Beauregard wrote that Heckard believes he would have a fairer trial when Murray is no longer mayor. Beauregard claims Murray and his team have "tainted the jury pool with false information about the accusers, including Mr. Heckard" by claiming they were anti-gay or politically motivated. Today, Beauregard simultaneously claimed his client would refile the suit after Murray is no longer mayor and declared that justice had been served when Murray decided not to seek re-election.
Today, Murray called Beauregard a "publicity hungry lawyer with special connections to certain members of the press" (though he didn't elaborate on what those "special connections" are). He also hinted at a potential response to Beauregard in the courts, saying his team would “continue to explore our own legal options."
Murray's lawyers say the timing of Beauregard's decision to dismiss the case is suspicious because his client was due to answer written questions from Murray's legal team. Those questions focus on whether he can accurately recall details about Murray's apartment from the time.
So far, two frontrunners in the race for mayor have commented on today's news. In a statement, former U.S. attorney Jenny Durkan said:
Mayor Murray and his husband Michael are friends, and I know how painful and difficult this time has been for them. I wish them a time of healing now that this cloud has been lifted and the lawsuit against the mayor has been withdrawn. Ed Murray has been, and continues to be, a strong and progressive civic leader. He has been a strong mayor and has led Seattle with a just and equitable vision. I look forward to continue working with him in the months and years to come.
(Beauregard recently donated $100 to Durkan but the campaign returned it.)
Former state Rep. Jessyn Farrell said she was "shocked to hear the news this morning, and my heart goes out to Mayor Murray, Michael, their families and friends for the pain of the past several weeks. As a city, we must reject the politics of personal destruction. Our voters—and our elected leaders—deserve better."
This is a developing story. We will update this post when we have more information.
Sydney Brownstone contributed reporting.