A week ago, a man with the initials D.H. filed a lawsuit saying that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray had paid him for sex as a teenager in the 1980s. D.H., who at 15 could not legally consent to sex with an adult, alleges sexual abuse.
Murray wrote an editorial responding to D.H.’s lawsuit and to another man with a similar story as D.H. He also takes on the Seattle Times, which broke this story. We are publishing this editorial in full but are providing annotations in bold where the mayor’s statements are incorrect, incomplete or demand more context.
Guest Editorial: The Motivation Is Political (via the Stranger, republished with permission)
Last Wednesday night, I received the shock of my life when I learned what all of Seattle would read about the next day: an anonymous person is accusing me of terrible acts that allegedly occurred thirty years ago.
I have denied this accusation, and will continue to do so. It is simply not true.
To be clear, I will remain focused on running the city and will continue building upon the many accomplishments we have achieved together during my time as mayor, including reforming the police department, building more affordable housing, raising the minimum wage, closing racial disparities in our public schools, addressing homelessness, and so much more.
I will not let any unfounded accusation upend my administration.
But I think it’s important for the public to understand how this unfounded accusation was given a public airing in the first place. The Seattle Times wonders in an editorial how much voters must continue to endure. But what the Times refers to as “sordid theater” all could have been avoided, not coincidentally, by the Seattle Times itself.
Assume for the sake of argument that the accuser is not telling the truth. Under this assumption, I have been deeply wronged – and that matters to me. But how we got to this point, where a sitting mayor must now publicly defend himself against something so reprehensible but untrue and prove his innocence – that matters to our democracy.
By way of background, the Seattle Times called me the night before it was set to publish. The Times shared some details of the accusation – although not the filing itself – only hours before the story was printed online. To this day, the identity of the accuser is unknown to me. I had no opportunity to present the Seattle Times with any information or evidence that might refute the accusation made against me, or to demonstrate that the story was verifiably false and that it should not, could not be printed.
NOTE: The Seattle Times’s story was published at 3 p.m. the next day.
I have a deep respect for the press, and understand the pressures to break the news when an explosive claim like this is made – but in this case, this imperative was not sufficiently balanced with the truth. Troublingly, the Seattle Times made the editorial decision to lower the standard of proof. Instead of seeking to verify – with evidence – the unsubstantiated accusation, it was enough only that the accusation was made.
The Seattle Times notes that it investigated an earlier accusation against me made in 2008 and found it without merit, but changed its mind in light of the new accusation.
NOTE: The Times did not find the 2008 allegation without merit. Rather, the Times has said it worried it did not meet the bar for such a damning claim.
“We tried to pin this down in 2008,” said managing editor Michele Matassa Flores. She was features editor at the time but didn’t know about the allegations.
She said that Jeff Simpson, the man accusing Murray of sexual abuse in 2008, became zealous in sharing his story, which concerned reporters.
“When Jeff Simpson started calling media, he was also calling legislators,” Matassa Flores said. “I could understand why as journalists, you’re automatically wondering if this is someone with a political axe to grind. Jeff has said he understands why some people had doubts back then.”
Let’s explore that for a moment.
The first accuser attempted to take his accusation public only after he sought payment from me. He has a history of making false allegations against other guardian figures. And, most importantly, law enforcement had long ago investigated and declined to prosecute.
NOTE: Context from the Times’ original story:
The only remaining record corroborating the investigation is a “case fact sheet” entry from an old Multnomah County District Attorney’s database. It indicates the DA’s office considered but rejected a felony third-degree sodomy charge, a crime against children, that identified Murray in May 1984.
Simpson admitted he was a bad witness, running away to live on the streets, doing drugs and earning cash as a prostitute.
Additionally, his extensive criminal history is very relevant. I would never suggest that those with criminal histories cannot be victims of abuse. Rather, his criminal history proves he cannot be trusted.
He has been convicted of numerous crimes of dishonesty, including identity theft, fraud, false emergency reporting and forgery, in addition to numerous convictions related to robbery, theft, unlawful use of weapons, delivery of controlled substances, criminal conspiracy and even attempted kidnapping.
The Seattle Times rightly rejected his accusation at the time.
NOTE: Again, the Times did not reject Simpson’s story in 2008. Nor did Brian Williams, Simpson’s attorney at the time.
According to the Stranger, Williams withdrew from the lawsuit because he was concerned the statutes of limitations had passed for Simpson.
“I personally would not be willing to pursue a case unless you had corroborating evidence and unless I believed my client,” Williams told the Stranger’s Sydney Brownstone. “In this case we had both.”
In 2012, the accuser tried to bring his claims forward again as I was leading the fight for marriage equality – an important detail, for reasons which will become clear shortly. The Seattle Times and other media outlets rejected these claims then too.
So why is all this important? Because the Seattle Times reports that the new and old accuser claim not to be associated with each other. This is a crucial point. Because if they are associated with each other, then there are not actually two independent accusations being made, but rather one already discredited accusation being reiterated.
NOTE: Matassa Flores of the Seattle Times said the newspaper reported on D.H.’s lawsuit last week largely because his story resembles the allegations made in 2008.
“The decisions were not made quickly or by just one or two people,” she said. “It’s a very drawn out back-and-forth that takes place over days and weeks. There’s soul searching, and not everybody feels the same way. It’s not a one-track conversation. We try to draw all of those out. We would have done that in 2008.”
Salaciously, both accusers provided the same description about distinguishing marks related to my private anatomy. Their accusations against me rest upon their being correct about this description, because unlike my phone number or address, these details are not readily publicly available.
This week, I proved this description categorically false.
NOTE: A physician examined Murray and found that there are no “distinguishing marks” on his genitalia. Murray’s attorney held a press conference to share that information.
It brought me no great joy to do so in a public forum, but the Seattle Times did not grant me the opportunity to provide such a critical piece of evidence before it printed its story. Not only does this evidence show that the accusers have fabricated their claims against me, but I believe it shows they have coordinated with each other.
Coordination implies motivation, and I believe the motivation is political. This accusation, after all, is a hateful, homophobic stereotype brought to life.
Here’s what I know:
Since 2008, the virulently bigoted Faith & Freedom Network has actively opposed my work to champion LGBTQ rights, and has openly resented my successful effort to pass the civil rights bill in 2008 and marriage equality in 2012. Since 2008, Gary Randall, its president and founder, has written about me on his blog (paid for by the Faith & Freedom Network PAC) more than 120 times. Just this week Randall admitted that he personally pitched the previous accusations against me to the Seattle Times and other legislators in 2008. He attacked me relentlessly during the marriage equality debate in 2012, and wrote about the accusations against me then.
Fast forward to 2017. Another civil rights effort that I am championing – this one regarding equal rights for transgender individuals – is under assault from the far right. An individual named Jack Connelly and his wife have contributed $50,000 to the "Just Want Privacy" campaign opposing basic restroom rights for transgender people. And Connelly’s law firm is the very same firm that has now brought forward the lawsuit against me. Indeed, the accuser’s primary attorney has admitted in the press that his partner holds firm anti-LGTBQ positions – positions which led me as a senator and chair of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee to refuse to support Connelly when ran for the state Senate in 2012.
NOTE: It's true that Connelly, the founding partner of the firm representing D.H., appears to hold conservative views.
But it’s also important to note that the two attorneys actually representing D.H. have not indicated they are anti-gay or homophobic.
Attorney Lincoln Beauregard has contributed to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns and to Democrats locally. In statements to the press, he has called himself an African-American civil rights attorney who is pro-gay.
Julie Kays, D.H.’s other attorney, gave $500 to Marco Rubio in the Republican presidential primary and $1,000 to Republican Steven O’Ban in Pierce County. She has also donated to Planned Parenthood.
Kays spent 11 years prosecuting crimes of sexual violence for the King County prosecutor’s office. In 2013, she spoke on a panel about the rights of child victims at a conference for the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section.
She also recently represented Diana Neff, a sergeant with the King County Sheriff’s Office, who sued for discrimination. Neff is a lesbian.
Murray’s own attorney supported Republican Rob McKenna’s bid for governor. He also contributed to the Obama and Clinton campaigns. He did not contribute to the mayor’s campaign.
These are not coincidences. Given the involvement of right wing organizations, the LGBTQ community should be extremely concerned, and I will continue to explore the connections between my accusers, anti-LGBTQ groups and each other. It is also not a coincidence that the lawsuit was timed to be filed just weeks before the campaign filing deadline, with the opposing counsel attempting to rush to depose me before the deadline as well. In the legal filing, the accuser admits that he seeks to remove me as mayor.
This is the agenda that the Seattle Times’ eagerness to break a story has furthered.
But not only did The Seattle Times rush to publish a damaging but untrue and unsubstantiated story, it rushed to judgment only six days later by calling on me not to run for re-election based on its own damaging but untrue and unsubstantiated story. This effort of self-fulfilling prophesy sets a reckless precedent. Not a single community leader has made a similar statement, electing instead to let the democratic and judicial process work.
It is extremely unorthodox for a newspaper to get out in front of the community and the process in an attempt to influence an outcome like this.
Note: News organizations often report on civil lawsuits involving sexual abuse of children. Examples include the Catholic Church sex abuse cases and the women who accused Bill Cosby of rape in the 1960s and later.
Murray and his attorneys have also used the press to put out their story. They called two press conferences in the last week related to the D.H. lawsuit. The mayor also took questions related to the case at a media briefing on Friday. And, of course, this editorial.
Again, assume for the sake of argument that my accuser is not telling the truth.
What has been the cost to our city?