Jeff Simpson, Ed Murrays former foster son, says Murray started sexually abusing him at age 13.
Jeff Simpson, Ed Murray's former foster son, says Murray started sexually abusing him at age 13. THOMAS TEAL

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The former foster son of Ed Murray who accused the former mayor of sexual abuse, is suing the City of Seattle and Murray for defamation, libel, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress.

Jeff Simpson, who said Murray abused him starting when he was 13 years old, was the first of five men to accuse Murray of sexual abuse. A decade ago, Simpson hired an attorney to pursue a civil suit against Murray. At the time, Simpson's lawyer dropped the case. He said last year that he dropped the lawsuit over a concern about the statute of limitations, not because he did not believe his client. Simpson said he also attempted to notify state lawmakers and others about the abuse. His allegations were not publicly reported until the Seattle Times broke the news last April that three men, including Simpson, accused Murray of abuse. By the time the former mayor resigned last fall, two more men including a cousin of Murray, had also accused him of sexual abuse. Delvonn Heckard, another accuser of Murray who sued the city, won a settlement in the case. Heckard died of an accidental overdose in February.

Murray has denied all of the allegations against him.

The complaint fleshes out Simpson's accusations against Murray, and also adds new details. For example, on his application to become Simpson's full-time foster parent after volunteering at a home for troubled children, the complaint alleges that Murray described his sexual preference as "heterosexual." The complaint also describes the process by which Portland police and child welfare officials conducted their investigation of Simpson's allegations of abuse.

For example, the complaint claims Portland police discovered that Simpson had already disclosed the allegations of abuse to his best friend and best friend's mother before he disclosed to Child Protective Services.

Here's what the complaint says about their testimony:

When interviewed by the Portland Police detective, both confirmed that Jeff had told them that Murray was having sex with him and that it “was really messing him up.” They specifically recalled a phone call where they overheard Jeff pleading with Murray to stop the sexual abuse. While conducting his investigation, the lead detective became aware that Murray had been repeatedly calling the group home that Jeff had been placed in, demanding to speak to Jeff. It was reported that when the group home denied Murray contact with Jeff, Murray threatened the group home with a lawsuit.

In 1984, Child Protective Services and the District Attorney's Office concluded that Simpson's allegations were credible, but decided not to pursue the case further because of Simpson's emotional instability at the time, according to the complaint. In a follow-up letter, Child Protective Services wrote: “The allegations are valid. The foster child is no longer in this home. I would emphasize that under no circumstances should Mr. Murray be certified in the future.”

Reporters at the Seattle Times were the first to dig up Simpson's Child Protective Services file and discover the note warning the agency not to allow Murray to foster any children in the future. The lawsuit describes the reporters as "tenacious and courageous," but contrasts their actions to the rest of the city.

"But still, most of Seattle’s political elite, in effect, enablers, continued to back Mr. Murray, thereby causing continuing emotional injuries to Jeff Simpson," the complaint reads. "No one at the City of Seattle, including the City of Seattle Council members who publicly supported Mayor Murray, made any effort to investigate the victims’ claims. Instead, they recklessly threw their support behind Murray and defended him in the media."

The complaint takes issue with how Murray allegedly used the resources of his office to fend off allegations of abuse brought by Heckard's lawsuit. When Heckard temporarily dropped his lawsuit, for example, the complaint notes that Murray stood behind a "publicly owned mayoral podium, with his husband (a Seattle employee) by his side on the taxpayer time, declaring 'vindication' in relation to Mr. Heckard’s private lawsuit claims while continuing to slander the lawyers and Jeff Simpson and other victims."

Simpson's complaint also details the editorial that Ed Murray published on this website, claiming that Jeff Simpson and other accusers' motivations were political, and part of an anti-gay campaign. When I interviewed Simpson last year, he expressed the opposite views, but The Stranger nevertheless published Murray's op-ed on the same day I published my reporting on Simpson.

Simpson's allegations don't end there. They specifically criticize the City Council members who threw their support behind Murray: Sally Bagshaw, for example, who texted Murray after news of the allegations broke to assuage fears that he might be impeached and announced that she had "faith in this mayor"; and Bruce Harrell, who asked, "Would you want to be judged by something alleged to have happened 30 years ago?”

Simpson's complaint also criticizes Council Members who didn't do anything at all.

"The failure to act was a form of negligence that permitted Mr. Murray to continue to use his power to defame the assorted victims," the complaint reads. "Both Mr. Murray, who absolutely knew these claims were true, and the City of Seattle leaders, who did absolutely nothing to determine whether the accusations were true, demonstrated a reckless disregard for the truth that may support punitive damages."

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It continues: "These actions, enabling, and watching future leaders of the community accept Mr. Murray’s endorsement, caused added emotional distress and humiliation to Jeff Simpson and childhood sex abuse victims everywhere."

Read the full document here. And for a timeline of how the city and other public officials responded to Murray's allegations, click here.

Heidi Groover contributed reporting.

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