SEATTLE – Hours after the Seattle Times reported a fifth man has come forward with an accusation of child rape, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has announced his resignation.
The Times reported Tuesday morning the allegations by Murray’s cousin, Joseph Dyer, 54, who claimed he was 13 when Murray forced him into sex. The two shared a bedroom at Dyer’s mother’s home in Medford, New York, in the mid-1970s.
Murray, a Democrat who has made much of his status as a “gay” man in a same-sex marriage, continues to deny the charges, insisting they were part of a political takedown effort because of his progressive politics and record as a gay-rights champion. But he announced in a statement he is resigning effective 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“While the allegations against me are not true, it is important that my personal issues do not affect the ability of our City government to conduct the public’s business,” Murray said.
City Councilmember Bruce Harrell will assume the office and decide within five days whether to fill out the remainder of the term, which ends Dec. 31. Murray previously had decided to run for re-election, but he dropped out in May in response to a lawsuit filed by one of the accusers and the remarkably similar allegations of three other men.
The Times said one of the accusers, Lloyd Anderson, issued a statement Tuesday through his lawyer.
“I feel victory, but saddened that it required another victim to come forward for him to resign. I wonder how many other victims are out there,” he said.
Another accuser, Jeff Simpson, who claims Murray began abusing him at age 13 when he was a foster son, also reacted to the news.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was like, you know what? God is good,” he said. “When you’re doing the right thing and don’t quit before the miracle, God takes care of stuff. It’s just on his time.”
The evidence against the mayor has mounted since April when the Times reported a local man, Delvonn Heckard, filed a lawsuit against Murray, claiming Murray raped and molested him when the man was a teenager. The paper also reported 10-year-old accusations by Simpson and Anderson, and a fourth man, Maurice Lavon Jones, came forward in May, claiming Murray paid him for sex when he was a youth.
Just three days before the lawsuit was filed, Murray was featured in a national interview story as one of the faces of the Democratic Party’s resistance to President Trump. His city had sued the federal government to stop the crackdown on “sanctuary cities,” and he had teamed with Washington’s governor and attorney general to oppose Trump’s temporary travel ban, resulting in a ruling by a federal judge in Seattle to temporarily halt the president’s executive order.
In July, newly unearthed records contradicted Murray’s denials, prompting a member of the City Council to call for his resignation. The records, thought to have been destroyed, bolstered the account of Simpson, who was a foster son to Murray in the early 1980s. They contain the account of an Oregon child-welfare investigator who concluded in 1984 Murray had sexually abused Simpson.
The determination led Oregon officials to decide that “under no circumstances should Mr. Murray be certified” as a foster parent in the future. The records show a Multnomah County prosecutor withdrew a criminal case against Murray because of Simpson’s troubled personality, not because she thought he was lying.
The revelation in July prompted Seattle City Council Lorena Gonzalez to call on Murray to step down, saying she was “deeply concerned” about the mayor’s ability to lead. Pressure, at the time, for Murray to resign also came from another City Council member, the LGBTQ Commission, the city’s Human Rights Commission and some mayoral candidates.
The Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger spoke with Simpson in June after Murray held a press conference declaring Heckard’s withdrawal of the lawsuit “vindicates” him.
“What is he is trying to get everybody to believe is because of this momentary setback, he’s found an excellent opportunity to grandstand in front of everybody and say, ‘I’m innocent,’” Simpson said, his voice breaking at times. “No you’re not. Not only are you not innocent, you haven’t done anything to prove you’re innocent.”
At the June news conference, Murray called the lawsuit “a painful experience.”
“It was a painful experience for victims of abuse, sexual abuse. It was a painful experience for the vulnerable people who seemed to have been exploited by an attorney with a publicity agenda,” he said. “It was a painful experience for people in the LGBT community who were subjected to the most despicable stereotype of who gay men are.”
Similar profiles, descriptions
Murray, elected Seattle’s mayor in 2013, has insisted the Heckard lawsuit was suspicious, coming within weeks of the filing deadline for the mayoral race.
Simpson, who was abandoned as an infant, lived under Murray’s care for nearly a year and a half as a teenager, the Seattle paper reported. Murray had counseled him at a Portland center for troubled teens in the late 1970s.
The abuse began in 1980, according to Simpson, when at the age of 13 he spent a weekend with Murray. It resumed after Murray became Simpson’s foster father and continued until he left Murray’s care at age 16, he told the Times.
Simpson considered filing a lawsuit in 2008, but his lawyer didn’t go forward because the statute of limitations apparently had passed. Murray was a Washington state senator at the time.
In April, when Heckard filed his lawsuit, Murray vehemently denied the allegations, saying he felt sad for the “troubled” individual making the claims.
“I have never backed down,” he said at a press conference at City Hall. “And I will not back down now.”
“Let me be clear: These allegations, dating back to a period of more than 30 years, are simply not true,” the mayor said.
The mayor’s personal spokesman Jeff Reading said at the time: “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.”
Heckard withdrew his lawsuit in June, saying he intends to refile after Murray leaves office.
Epicenter of resistance
Murray was named in a Feb. 5 Washington Post article headlined “How Washington state became the epicenter of resistance to Trump’s agenda” noting the mayor had vowed to protect illegal-alien residents, even asking the city to rework budgets in anticipation of the loss of federal funds.
“This city will not be bullied by this administration,” Murray told the Associated Press.
Politico reported Murray’s path to City Hall in Seattle began as an AIDS activist in the 1980s. Later, he managed a friend’s campaign for state representative. Murray was appointed to that seat himself after the friend died. He then won a seat in the state Senate before defeating an incumbent in a 2013 mayoral primary.
Under Murray, Seattle led the nation in imposing a $15 minimum wage and has initiated controversial, tax-hiking programs to combat homelessness that have included tent cities and encampments deploying run-down RVs.
Days before the lawsuit against him was filed, Murray scrapped a multimillion-dollar proposed city property tax hike to combat homelessness in favor of pursuing a county sales tax increase to pay for services in the region.
Seattle and King County rank third — behind Los Angeles and New York City — among 50 major cities and counties in the number of homeless people, with nearly 11,000, according to a November 2016 federal government report.
In his interview with Politico April 3, Murray discussed his Catholic faith — he once studied to be a priest before changing direction — and the divisions among Democrats who are trying to mount a resistance to Trump.
“On the national level, at times, I feel like we are becoming like the tea party on the far right, that we have purity tests,” he said.
“If we are starting to have purity tests amongst ourselves, then we’re never going to gain back those working-class and lower-income people that we are building a progressive movement for.”
The three initial accusers interviewed by the Times said they knew Murray when they were growing up in Portland in the 1980s.
In his legal complaint, Heckard alleged Murray “raped and molested him” over several years, beginning in 1986 when the man was a 15-year-old high-school dropout and crack-cocaine addict.
“I have been dealing with this for over 30 years,” the man, now sober for a year, told the 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.”
Simpson and Anderson also described themselves as troubled teens in the 1980s when they knew Murray.
Simpson told the Times he spoke to a detective and a social worker in 1984 about his claim, but no charges were filed.
A decade ago, they both raised the allegations to media and Washington state lawmakers. Simpson, in 2008, said he spoke on the phone with the Rev. Ken Hutcherson, the late local pastor who was an outspoken activist for traditional marriage.
Anderson and Simpson told the Times they would testify in court if needed.
Murray’s spokesman, Reading, addressed the previous claims.
“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,” he said.
The Times pointed out all three of Murray’s initial accusers have “substantial criminal records.”
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.”
Heckard told the Times he didn’t see how Murray could deny the claims.
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.”