The man who sued Mayor Ed Murray for alleged sexual assault in the ’80s, bringing to an end a political career that spanned two decades, has withdrawn his lawsuit.
In reaction to the news, Murray lashed out at the lead attorney for the plaintiff, as well as the press. He also apologized to any victims of sexual assault he offended by attacking the credibility of his accuser, and would not rule out the possibility of mounting a write-in campaign for mayor this year.
“I truly believe that Seattle should have had a choice. That a lawyer, a publicity [hungry] lawyer with special connections to certain members of the press should not be driving this city, or should not be driving who the next mayor of this city is,” he said during an afternoon press conference. “The voters should have had that opportunity.” The lawyer in question is Lincoln Beauregard. It’s unclear what he was referring to in regards to “special connections” the lawyer has with the press.
Murray went so far as to say Beauregard “exploited” his client to “advance a publicity agenda.”
Asked whether he would consider a write-in campaign, Murray shrugged and said: “I’m going to consider my options.”
A write-in candidacy would be a difficult task. Murray would need to get more write-in votes than all but one candidate in a crowded mayoral field in the August 1 primary to make it to the general election. Were Murray to succeed in being one of the top two candidates during the primary, his name would appear on the November ballot, according to the King County candidate manual.
Murray is still sitting on a pile of cash; paperwork filed with the state this week shows he had $164,738 on hand at the end of May. This is despite thousands of dollars being refunded to donors. Sandeep Kaushik, an advisor to the Murray campaign, said in an email, “The mayor has not made a final decision yet about the final disposition of funds in the campaign account.”
Yet many of his supporters seem to have switched allegiances to Jenny Durkan, meaning he would have to claw back some of that support. Asked whether Durkan’s presence in the race would influence his decision on mounting a campaign, Murray put it bluntly: “No.”
The lawsuit is not dead, exactly. Rather, Delvonn Heckard withdrew the suit Tuesday in a manner that allows him to refile it later. Heckard’s lawyers say in the suit that he wants to complete rehab before continuing the legal fight. Yet the withdrawal quickly rekindled speculation over Heckard’s motives. Murray has contended all along that the accusations were false, and concocted as a way to force him out of office. Murray announced last month that he would not be seeking re-election; with the mayor out of the race, had the lawsuit served its purpose?
Another note about the timing: Jeff Reading, Murray’s personal spokesman, says that Heckard was scheduled to answer questions under oath on Thursday. Heckard’s attorneys had previously said Heckard was eager to tell his story under oath.
Heckard was not the first person to accuse Murray of sexual misconduct. Two men whom Murray had mentored as teenagers in Portland also accused him of molesting them when he was in his 20s and they in their early teens. Those men, Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Anderson, first came forward with their accusations in 2008. Yet these allegations did not become public at the time due to what reporters perceived as a political taint: their stories were promoted by an opponent of gay marriage, a cause that Murray was championing at the time. After Heckard’s suit was filed, a fourth man also accused Murray of sexual abuse in the 1980s.
In his announcement that he would not seek re-election, Murray underscored his contention that the accusations were part of a sustained campaign to topple an openly gay man.
“The allegations against me paint me in the worst possible historic portraits of a gay man. The allegations against me are not true, and I say this with all honesty and the deepest sincerity,” he said at the time.
Heckard himself has said politics played a role in the suit, but not in the way Murray says. Addressing why he was bringing the suit shortly before an election, the suit states the recent death of Heckard’s father “prompted moments of reflection and introspection. … These moments of reflection, and awareness that Mr. Murray maintains a position of authority, prompted the filing of this lawsuit in an attempt at accountability…” Later in the lawsuit, his lawyers write: “Natural speculation would lead some people to believe that [Heckard’s] actions are politically motivated—which is not exactly true. In this regard, [Heckard] 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.”
Heckard’s lawyer on Wednesday called the fact that Murray is not running for re-election “justice.”
Delvonn's goal was to spread the truth — the Mayor's decision not to run for reelection proved he was heard! Justice!
— LincolnLawyer (@quietplease321) June 14, 2017
Victim advocates have also contended that it would be exceedingly rare for four people to fabricate episodes of sexual assault. Murray came under fire for pointing out his accusers’ criminal backgrounds, which critics said amounted to victim blaming.
Murray made a point to apologize to victims of sexual assault on Wednesday.
“To any of the victims of sexual abuse who were hurt by my initial response to this story, I am deeply sorry. Victims of sexual abuse must be heard,” he said. Later he added: “What I regret is it quickly painted a picture that does not reflect who I am as a person and does not reflect the people I have dealt with and helped personally who have been victims of sexual abuse.” He cited various victim-support and anti-bullying campaigns he has been a part of as a public official.
In a string of tweets, Beauregard fired back at Murray, saying he and Heckard stand by their story.
I represent Delvonn Heckard. Murray and his lawyers attack me since attacking the victims backfired.
— LincolnLawyer (@quietplease321) June 14, 2017
Mayoral candidate Jessyn Farrell released a statement Wednesday that suggests Murray has been the victim of a smear.
“Like everyone, I 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.”
Durkan, before Murray suggested he may still make a run, praised his leadership in a press release.
“Ed Murray has been, and continues to be, a strong and progressive civic leader,” she said. “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.”
Financial paperwork filed by Murray’s campaign this week sheds more light on the lead up to his May 9 decision to drop out of the race. While the accusations were well known by the beginning of the month, in just the one week he was still in the race he continued to raise a substantial amount of money—$12,242. Yet the paperwork also shows the campaign spent more than $25,000 on polling; Murray later told the Seattle Times that it was bad polling numbers that convinced him to drop out.