At 3:13 p.m. on April 6, everything about the final year of Mayor Ed Murray's first term changed.
The Seattle Times dropped a shocking report that Murray faces a civil lawsuit from a man who claims the mayor repeatedly "raped and molested" him when he was 15, which is under the age of consent in Washington State. Two other men alleged to the Times that Murray sexually abused them in the 1980s, when Murray was in his 20s and 30s.
Murray denies the allegations. Further, he says he won't resign or bow out of the mayor's race, setting the stage for a high-profile legal and political battle with no end in sight.
What the Alleged Victims Say
In the lawsuit, accuser D.H. says Murray paid him $10 to $20 for sex over multiple years while the teen was homeless and addicted to drugs.
"The sex acts included various forms of intercourse," according to the complaint filed in the case. "At times, the sex turned aggressive," the complaint reads, "beyond a point to which D.H. was comfortable and/or felt that to which he had agreed."
Two other men, who are not named in the lawsuit, have also accused Murray of sexual abuse. The men, Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Anderson, told the Seattle Times that Murray abused them while they were teenagers living on the streets or in foster and group homes in Portland, Oregon. Simpson says he later moved to Seattle, where he sometimes stayed with Murray and used Murray's address in 1987 court documents, the Times reported. Simpson called reporters and state lawmakers about the accusations about a decade ago, but no media outlets reported the story. In 1984, a Portland-area prosecutor considered third-degree sodomy charges against Murray, but never went forward with a criminal case.
What the Mayor and His Team Say
Murray has denied the accusations, calling them "very painful" and "simply not true." The day the accusations surfaced, Murray's team said the accusations are politically motivated. "It is not a coincidence that this shakedown effort comes within weeks of the campaign filing deadline," spokesperson Jeff Reading said. The two accusations not included in the suit "were promoted by extreme right-wing antigay activists in the midst of the marriage-equality campaign," Reading said.
On April 11, Bob Sulkin, Murray’s attorney, released a doctor’s report the defense team says disproves a claim in D.H.’s civil lawsuit that said the mayor had a “unique mole on his scrotum” at the time of the alleged assaults. The report says Murray has no moles, freckles, or other marks or bumps on his genitals and no signs of such marks or bumps being removed. “This is the heart of the case. This is what they were pushing at. What does he have left?” Sulkin said, insinuating that D.H.’s lawsuit should be dead on arrival.
At press time, lawyers for D.H. had not responded to the medical report. But they have denied it when asked whether the timing of the civil case is politically motivated. "My client wants the public to know what the mayor did so that they can judge the merits and whether or not he should be their mayor," said attorney Lincoln Beauregard. "That said, my client's intentions are not connected to any other political agenda, other than winning this lawsuit."
This won't be Murray's first time defending himself against these sorts of allegations, but the stakes are much higher this time around.
When the sexual-abuse accusations against Murray first surfaced about a decade ago, an attorney for Murray worked to discredit the alleged victims because they have criminal histories, according to the Seattle Times.
Discrediting accusers based on their criminal pasts perhaps won't play as well in 2017—particularly for a mayor who has said addressing racial disproportionally is central to his administration and who has supported efforts to help people who struggle to access housing even "long after they have served their sentences and paid their debt to society."
In his press conference denying the allegations, Murray didn't go so far as to mention his accuser's criminal history, but the mayor did say, "The individual making these allegations is troubled, and that makes me sad as well."
What the Rest of City Hall Is Saying
Not much. Council president Bruce Harrell, speaking for the council, said all nine members "have no intention of commenting on matters of pending or potential litigation."
Two of Murray's mayoral challengers commented without responding directly to the allegations. Safe streets advocate Andres Salomon said "the allegations speak toward our need to effectively fund safety nets for our young people." Black Lives Matter activist Nikkita Oliver said she had "no interest in commenting upon the specifics of the allegations" but hoped they would lead to "a conversation about how to make structural changes that will benefit and protect vulnerable young people."
"For too long, people in positions of power, whether it be political, financial, or cultural power, have not been held accountable for the pain and suffering they have inflicted," Oliver said in a statement.
Local political consulting firm Moxie Media seized on the news, telling reporters they've been "working with a viable, resourced potential challenger for a couple of months now" and that the allegations "may push up her decision making timeline."
What We Know About the Lawyers Representing the Accuser
The lawyers representing D.H., Lincoln Beauregard and Julie Kays, both work at Connelly Law Offices, a firm with offices in Tacoma and Seattle. Beauregard is a founding member of the office.
The firm has taken on child-abuse cases in the past, including a woman who alleged that an Eckstein Middle School teacher abused her when she was 12, and a group of foster children who said their abuse was ignored by the state Department of Social and Health Services.
Expect Murray's team to capitalize on the fact that the firm's founder and eponym—John (Jack) Connelly—has a track record of anti-LGBT stances. In 2012, Connelly ran for state senate as a Democrat but opposed same-sex marriage. Last year, Connelly and his wife together donated $50,000 to Initiative 1515, an anti-trans bathroom law that failed to get enough signatures to make the ballot.
Over the years, Connelly has also donated to state politicians in both major parties, including Democratic governor Jay Inslee and Republican state senator Steve O'Ban. Beauregard and Kays, the lawyers at Connelly's firm who are actually representing D.H., have given to campaigns too, with Beauregard backing Democrats and Kays supporting a few Republicans.
In an interview over e-mail, Beauregard said Connelly's politics have no bearing on the firm's civil case against Murray. Beauregard added that he disagrees with his partner's anti-LGBT stances.
"I am SUPER pro gay rights myself," Beauregard wrote. "I hope that another gay mayor, who doesn't molest children, gets elected. And our client is full-on gay."
Connelly's office is handling the case against Murray on contingency, Beauregard said, meaning the client will pay the firm only if it wins the case and there is a financial settlement involved. Beauregard told The Stranger that Connelly had "no input" on whether he would take this case or not.
Then Beauregard sent another e-mail: "And to add, I am an African American civil rights attorney, long-time Democrat, and live in Queen Anne. I would go to the mat to fight for gay civil rights. We have represented many, many gay clients. The idea that this is anti-gay is ridiculous."
So why work with Connelly, a man who funds anti-trans legislation?
"He is a great man, great lawyer, with political views that I do not agree with," Beauregard wrote. "Our law practice and our personal beliefs have nothing to do with each other. My wife and I often find ourselves rolling our eyes at the Connelly family's political positions. But I still love them as people and as a law partner. This isn't Washington D.C. We can work together, and have done so for 17 years since my first internship in law school. I sometimes walk into Jack's office, and say, sarcastically, 'What overly conservative position are you working on today????'"
What Happens Next
If Mayor Murray were to resign, Harrell would be first in line to become mayor. But Murray has given no indication that he'll step down. The day after the suit was filed, Murray vowed in a press conference to stay mayor and to continue running for reelection.
"Things have never come easy to me in life, but I have never backed down, and I will not back down now," Murray said before abruptly walking away with his husband, Michael Shiosaki, without taking questions from reporters.
Because the statute of limitations for sexual-abuse charges has passed, Murray will not face criminal charges for the alleged abuse. The lawsuit is a civil case seeking an unspecified amount of damages and attorney fees. In an April 7 letter to Murray's lawyer, Beauregard was eager to quickly move ahead with the case. He offered to make D.H. available for a video deposition "ASAP—perhaps next week," saying his client is "anxious to respond to your public allegations of wrongful motive." Beauregard said his office would like to depose Murray in May. A preliminary schedule for the case sets a trial date of April 2, 2018.