Lawsuit alleges Seattle Mayor Ed Murray sexually abused troubled teen in 1980s
A new lawsuit accuses Seattle Mayor Ed Murray of child sexual abuse decades ago.
Two other men have told The Seattle Times they, too, were abused by Murray as teenagers in the 1980s. The mayor vigorously denies all the accusations.
A 46-year-old Kent man sued Seattle Mayor Ed Murray on Thursday, claiming Murray “raped and molested him” over several years, beginning in 1986 when the man was a 15-year-old high-school dropout.
The lawsuit in King County Superior Court, filed under the man’s initials, “D.H.,” alleges Murray sexually abused the crack-cocaine addicted teen on numerous occasions for payments of $10 to $20.
“I have been dealing with this for over 30 years,” the man, now sober for a year, said in an interview with The Seattle Times. He said he was coming forward as part of a “healing process” after years of “the shame, the embarrassment, the guilt, the humiliation that I put myself through and that he put me through.”
Murray, who is running for re-election this year, vehemently denied the allegations. He abruptly canceled a news conference about police reform scheduled for Thursday afternoon and did not make a public appearance.
A statement from Murray’s personal spokesman Jeff Reading said, “These false accusations are intended to damage a prominent elected official who has been a defender of vulnerable populations for decades. It is not a coincidence that this shakedown effort comes within weeks of the campaign filing deadline. These unsubstantiated assertions, dating back three decades, are categorically false. Mayor Murray has never engaged in an inappropriate relationship with any minor. … Mayor Murray will vigorously fight these allegations in court.”
D.H. is not the first to accuse Murray, one of the state’s most powerful politicians, of sexual abuse that occurred decades ago. Murray, 61, has known of other allegations for years, and has quietly, but vigorously denied them.
Two men, Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Anderson, said they knew Murray when they were growing up in a Portland center for troubled children, and later as teenagers. They accuse Murray of abusing them in the 1980s when he was in his 20s. Simpson made the claim as a teen in 1984, and talked with a social worker and detective at the time. No charges were filed.
Both men raised the allegations a decade ago, with one making calls to reporters and Washington state lawmakers. They repeated the accusations in recent interviews with The Seattle Times, saying they would testify in court if needed.
Now, with the D.H. lawsuit, Murray faces a formal public accusation for the first time, and details of the case bear similarities to the earlier allegations.
While The Seattle Times chose not to publish the 2008 allegations, the similarities between those claims and the new public case gave additional weight and relevance to the previous information.
Reading’s statement acknowledged Simpson and Anderson’s accusations: “The two older accusations were promoted by extreme right-wing anti-gay activists in the midst of the marriage equality campaign, and were thoroughly investigated and dismissed by both law enforcement authorities and the media.”
All three of Murray’s accusers have substantial criminal records.
Taking action now
In his lawsuit, D.H. said he first met Murray on a Metro bus on Capitol Hill, and that Murray invited him back to his apartment, propositioning him for sex.
The two haggled over the price — $10 or $15, D.H. said in an interview this week, adding that Murray continued to pay him for the next four to five years, at least 50 times.
“And there’s times he would be doing certain things and I would tell him to stop and he wouldn’t stop, and I let it happen because I wanted that money so I can go get those drugs,” D.H. said in the interview.
The lawsuit gives details about Murray’s 1980s Capitol Hill apartment, accurately recalls Murray’s phone number from the time, and offers a description of his genitals.
Before first paying D.H. for sex in 1986, according to the lawsuit, “Mr. Murray asked D.H. his age, and he responded truthfully, age 15.” Murray was then in his early 30s.
Sex with a child under 16 — the age of legal consent in Washington in 1986 and today — constitutes rape of a child under state law. The statute of limitations to bring any criminal charges based on the man’s claims expired long ago.
For civil cases, victims of child sex abuse are able to bring claims in Washington for years and well into adulthood, depending on when a victim recognizes the impacts such abuse has had on their life.
The civil lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, and notes that D.H. has not previously made “any financial demands” of Murray. D.H. initially took his allegations to Lawand Anderson, a Des Moines lawyer. She has teamed up on the lawsuit with Lincoln Beauregard and Julie Kays with Connelly Law Offices, a high-powered firm that has won major judgments in abuse cases.
D.H. said he is taking action now, in part, because his father’s recent death has freed him of a desire to keep the abuse secret. He’s also now getting counseling and participating in addiction-recovery programs.
Like D.H., Simpson and Anderson, the two men who lived in Portland, allege that Murray paid them for sex when they were teenagers.
Simpson, who is 49, also says Murray — whom he thought of as a father — raped him over several years, starting at age 13, and in later years paid him.
A knock on the door
On a recent Sunday, two Times reporters showed up unannounced at the Portland-area apartment that Simpson, now a public roads crew worker, shares with his wife and teenaged son. He appeared surprised, but immediately said he had prayed someone would eventually come knock on his door.
“I would really like for him to admit it and to take responsibility …” Simpson said of Murray. “I don’t necessarily think that he destroyed my life, but I believe a lot of the problems I have stemmed from this.”Jeff Simpson, seen here in a 1984 yearbook picture, said he knew Murray when Simpson was a teenager growing up in a Portland center for troubled children.
Simpson’s effort in 2007, with support from Lloyd Anderson, to bring a case against Murray fell apart when his lawyer withdrew. A few months later, in March 2008, Simpson started the calls to media organizations and lawmakers in Olympia, spreading the word that Murray, then a state senator, was a “pedophile” who had sexually abused him.
Murray denied the accusations to reporters and hired an attorney, who worked to discredit the men largely based on their criminal pasts. Neither The Seattle Times nor other media publicly reported the allegations, and Murray’s political career continued to rise.
Anderson told a paralegal for Simpson’s attorney about his alleged sexual acts with Murray during a 2007 interview and described distinctive physical features.
“During these encounters, (he) noticed that Ed had an unusual bump on his penis and bright red pubic hair,” the paralegal wrote in a memo in 2007.
In his lawsuit, D.H. described Murray as having “reddish pubic hair and a unique mole on his scrotum — it is a small bump.”
In separate interviews, Simpson and Anderson said they were unaware of any forthcoming lawsuit. They said they had not talked with anyone about their own allegations for years.
Similarly, D.H. said he didn’t know of anyone else claiming abuse by Murray, and Beauregard said his client didn’t recognize Simpson’s or Anderson’s names.
‘Only parent that I know’
Murray, a progressive Democrat whose work in the Legislature made him a champion for gay rights, was elected Seattle’s mayor in 2013. He’s enjoyed a series of successes in his first term, and lately he’s drawn national attention as a prominent face of resistance to President Donald Trump’s agenda. He has been considered well-positioned this year to win a second term.
Long before he got into politics, Murray, one of seven children in an Irish Catholic family, considered the priesthood. He spent a year at a seminary in 1976, before earning his sociology degree from the University of Portland, a private Catholic institution.
While Murray was in college, Simpson said, he worked with kids at the Parry Center for Children. That’s where they met, said Simpson, who went to live there when he was 6.
At age 3, Simpson said, his adoptive parents had abandoned him for setting a Christmas tree on fire, burning the family house.
The alleged sexual abuse by Murray began in 1980, Simpson says, when he lived at a group home after leaving the Parry Center, and was allowed to spend the night at Murray’s apartment.
Simpson says the two were watching TV, when Murray, then in his mid-20s, began to stroke the 13-year-old’s legs.
“Hey … Jeff, can you keep a secret?” Simpson said Murray asked him.
Simpson claims Murray told him “you really excite me” and asked whether he could take off the boy’s clothes and touch him. Simpson says he told Murray he wasn’t comfortable, and Murray stopped. But later, Murray pulled off Simpson’s clothes and performed oral sex, Simpson claims.
“I told him no, no, no … I don’t want to do any of this,” Simpson said. “I started crying… and we stopped.”
National Sexual Assault Hotline
The next day, he said, Murray took him back to the group home in Beaverton and asked him not to say anything.
Months later, Murray again abused him on an overnight visit, Simpson claims. The abuse, he said, went on for years. All the while, Murray also seemed to genuinely care about his welfare, Simpson said. Murray tried helping Simpson find foster homes, and eventually took him in.
“That’s why this is so hard for me,” Simpson said. “He’s the only parent that I know, as messed up as that is.”
Simpson said he was about 15 when he went to live with Murray. At the time, Simpson had been running away and getting into trouble at other homes. While living alone with Murray, Simpson claims “the abuse was going on regularly” but with one difference: Murray started paying him for sex.
Simpson said he used the cash to buy pot.
‘I was young’
Anderson, 51, says that while he lived at the Parry Center from about 1973 to 1980, he became “best friends” with Simpson and also came to know Murray.
In a telephone interview Thursday, Anderson said he left the center at age 14 or 15, to live with a Portland-area couple. He cried when recounting that Simpson later visited him and confided he’d been having a sexual relationship with Murray.
Jeff Simpson, who first accused Seattle Mayor Ed Murray of
sexual abuse in the 1980s, lives near Portland. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)
“It wasn’t exactly voluntary,” Anderson said Simpson told him. “He was crying.”
In 1981 or 1982, when Anderson was about 16, he said he left the home where he’d been staying periodically to live on the streets and do drugs. One day, Anderson said, he had a chance encounter downtown with Murray, who invited him to his apartment in Northwest Portland. Anderson said Murray later offered to pay him $30 and some marijuana for oral sex — and he agreed.
Anderson said he met Murray several times at his apartment for sex after that. The encounters continued until Anderson was about 17, he said. Murray paid him from $15 to $30 during each encounter, Anderson said.
“Look, the guy took advantage of my situation,” said Anderson, who now lives in Florida. “I was young, I was homeless and doing drugs and everything.”
The general age of legal consent in Oregon in 1982 is the same as it is today — 18, according to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. A man of Murray’s age at the time — about 26 — engaging in oral sex with someone between 16 and 18 would have constituted the misdemeanor crime of “contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor,” the DA’s office said.
About two years later, in 1984, Simpson said, Murray kicked him out of his apartment following a fight. Simpson said he went back to a group home, where he became angry and depressed, and cut his wrists in the shower.
Simpson said he told a group-home administrator Murray had molested him, triggering a police investigation. Despite the alleged abuse, Simpson said he told authorities he wanted to return to live with Murray.
Simpson said he was interviewed by police and child-services investigators, but no charges were filed against Murray, who for a time in Portland worked in a public defender’s office.
Representatives for Portland police and Oregon’s Department of Human Services, which oversees child-welfare cases, each said the investigation occurred so long ago, records would have been destroyed.
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.
A few months later, Murray moved from Portland to Seattle, records show. While living on Capitol Hill, he worked as a paralegal, according to news accounts.
Moving to Seattle
In 1986, D.H. claims, he met Murray shortly after dropping out of Seattle’s Nathan Hale High School during his freshman year.
He said he was hanging out on Broadway, and Murray, then in his early 30s, “propositioned D.H. for private visits to his Capitol Hill apartment,” the lawsuit contends.
Simpson says that around the same time, while he was in his late teens, Murray also was paying to have sex with him in his Capitol Hill apartment. Despite his previous allegations against Murray in Portland, Simpson said he followed Murray north to Seattle.
Simpson was mostly homeless then, but at times stayed with Murray.
Simpson last month accurately recalled the apartment’s location. He also described where the bathroom and bedroom were in the third-floor unit, much as D.H. described them in his lawsuit.
Court records show Simpson was arrested several times in Seattle between 1986 and 1988, drawing theft, weapons and prostitution charges, among others.
Simpson often gave aliases during his frequent run-ins with the law. During at least one encounter with police, he identified himself as “Jeffrey David Murray,” court records show. He also used Murray’s Harvard Avenue address as his own on court documents during a 1987 credit-card theft and forgery case, records show.
‘Position of trust’
D.H. admits to drug addiction and has a long history of criminal convictions and charges, including a prostitution arrest in 1990. He’s now in recovery programs and attends community college, studying to become a chemical-dependency counselor.
He said his parents were crack addicts and died of drug overdoses. For years, he said, he has struggled with shame over the alleged abuse.
“I tried to commit suicide a couple of times, just because I was disgusted with myself, but I’m past that now,” D.H. said.
Anderson, who accused Murray with Simpson in 2007, also abused drugs and alcohol. A registered sex offender, he was convicted in 1998 for several counts of felony sexual contact with a minor. He spent eight years in prison. Anderson said he now lives with his longtime wife, has two grown children and for a time managed a steakhouse. He no longer uses drugs, he said.
Simpson has convictions for burglaries, robberies and selling drugs to support his meth addiction.
In 1990, he was convicted of armed robbery and served nine years in prison in Oregon. After prison, Simpson said, he continued to sell drugs. He began to get sober after his son’s birth a year later. Court records show he has not had a criminal conviction since 2004.
In 2007, as part of his long recovery, Simpson said he felt compelled to go public with his allegations. By then, Murray had served in the Washington Legislature for more than decade.
Simpson contacted a Portland lawyer, Brian Williams, who warned an attorney for Murray in a December 7, 2007 letter that despite Simpson’s criminal past, his firm’s investigation “indicates that Mr. Simpson is telling the truth and is the victim of long term sex abuse by your client.”
Murray hired a Portland attorney, Katherine Heekin, who distributed Simpson’s and Anderson’s criminal records and attacked their credibility, saying their story was false.
Murray paid Heekin more than $10,700 from his surplus campaign funds in 2008, according to Public Disclosure Commission records. Another $8,000 went to a private investigator.
In late February 2008, Williams withdrew representation from Simpson, telling him in a letter citing the law firm’s “evaluation of the claim.”
At the same time early 2008, Simpson had been calling news organizations and lawmakers in an unsuccessful effort to publicize allegations. He said he also spoke on the phone with the Rev. Ken Hutcherson, a chief opponent of gay rights (Hutcherson died in 2013).
Simpson said he understands why people didn’t believe him then.
“I get it. I understand, my past is less than stellar,” he said. “… People did think I was nuts and nobody wanted to believe it. But I felt I needed to tell the truth, finally tell the truth.”
Sitting in his lawyer’s office Wednesday afternoon, D.H. said he didn’t see how Murray would be able to deny the alleged abuse. His attorneys want to question the mayor under oath within 90 days.
D.H. said he wants Murray held accountable for treating him “like I was just nothing, like I was worthless.”
His lawsuit said he “is disturbed that Mr. Murray maintains a position of trust and authority, and believes that the public has a right to full information when a trusted official exploits a child.”
In a brief meeting with reporters Thursday afternoon, Robert Sulkin, an attorney for Murray, said the mayor would continue “to do his job for the city of Seattle.” Murray will make no public appearances Friday — none had been previously scheduled, according to his office.
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