There’s dirty politics, and then there’s the accusation that PubliCola leveled against Seattle City Councilmember Jean Godden. “Speaking of Godden,” writes the wonky political site, “no confirmation of this yet, but we hear Godden and her campaign staff discussed doing a campaign mailer trashing one of her two leading opponents, Maurice Classen, for ‘not really supporting victims of domestic violence.’ Her evidence? Classen testified for mercy for his father, who murdered Classen’s mom in an act of domestic violence.”
Leave aside for a moment the fact that PubliCola published an unsubstantiated rumor (Godden campaign manager Carlo Caldirola-Davis tells Seattle Weekly that PubliCola never bothered to call him). Instead, consider how horrible this rumor would be if true.
According to Davis, it’s not. “Totally false,” he says.
Longtime Godden consultant Cathy Allen says the same. “Never happened,” she says on a cell phone she answered mid-meeting. “Not true. Not true. Not true . . . If there’s one thing I appreciate about Maurice, it’s that he’s taken on this issue [domestic violence].”
Yet at least one person says Allen is the one not telling the truth. Speaking to the Weekly on condition of anonymity (a condition granted only because the person faces severe retribution if identified), a source who runs in political circles (and who insists he/she wasn’t also the source for PubliCola’s rumor) says that during a recent conversation with Allen, she told them that the Godden campaign was holding on to the issue of Classen’s begging for leniency during his father’s murder trial like a trump card—i.e., something possibly to be brought up later in the campaign.
It’s an incredibly odd political maneuver considering the circumstances. Because Classen’s family’s ordeal doesn’t make him look like someone deserving of voters’ scorn, but rather their sympathy.
At 2 a.m. on February 8, 2005, James Classen, Maurice’s father, slipped into the home of Classen’s mother, who had recently divorced him, and killed her. The murder itself was brutal. Classen’s father took a pair of sewing scissors and stabbed his ex-wife more than 100 times, mostly in the face. Jurors heard how she had been attacked while asleep, and how the attack didn’t end even as she begged for her life.
At trial, Classen and his brother testified to their father’s long history of depression and a previous suicide attempt. In an effort to get his charge reduced from first- to second-degree, they spoke of how their father had been in a manic state at the time of the killing, which wouldn’t have allowed him to plan the horrific murder. Despite his son’s pleas, Classen’s father was found guilty of the more serious charge and ordered to spend 23 years and four months in prison, effectively a life sentence for the then-60-year-old former dentist.
How these details could fit a narrative that Classen, a King County deputy prosecutor, is somehow soft on domestic violence is difficult to comprehend. It’s also beyond the pale, even when it comes to politics.