By Lewis Kamb / The Seattle Times
SEATTLE — A Kent man who earlier this year withdrew a lawsuit that helped expose a wider alleged child sex-abuse scandal that drove Ed Murray out of public office has refiled a legal case against Seattle’s former mayor.
Delvonn Heckard’s new lawsuit not only accuses Murray of repeatedly raping and molesting him as a teenager, but it also blames the city of Seattle for enabling Murray to use his political office to slander Heckard and other alleged victims for months during the former mayor’s public denials.
“Acting within the scope of employment and utilizing his position of power as bestowed upon him by the citizens of the City of Seattle, Mr. Murray spread false and harmful information about Delvonn, and his attorneys, in an effort to win re-election and extinguish these claims,” the lawsuit contends.
The suit, filed Monday in King County Superior Court, accuses Murray of making “false assertions” that included calling Heckard a liar motivated by an anti-gay political agenda. It names only Murray and the city as defendants, but also contends that Murray’s personal spokesman, his lead attorney, his husband and his campaign team “acted in concert to perpetuate this fraud.”
Heckard’s 13-page complaint also blames “many members of Seattle’s political elite” — specifically naming Seattle City Councilmembers Bruce Harrell and Sally Bagshaw — for empowering Murray’s attacks on victims by refusing to seek the mayor’s removal from office.
“The failure to act was a form of negligence that permitted Mr. Murray to continue to use his power to defame the assorted victims,” the suit states. “These actions, enabling, and watching future leaders of the community accept Mr. Murray’s endorsement, caused added emotional distress and humiliation to Delvonn, and childhood sex abuse victims everywhere.”
Murray, through his personal spokesman, declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for City Attorney Pete Holmes said early Monday his office had not yet received a copy of Heckard’s lawsuit and doesn’t typically comment on pending litigation against the city.
Murray, 62, a former state legislator in his first term as Seattle mayor, resigned on Sept. 12 about two hours after The Seattle Times reported his cousin, Joseph Dyer, had become the fifth man to publicly accuse him of child sexual abuse decades ago.
Aside from Heckard and Dyer, Murray’s accusers include Jeff Simpson, Murray’s live-in foster son in the early 1980s; Lloyd Anderson, who lived in a Portland children’s group home where Murray worked as a counselor in the late 1970s; and Maurice Lavon Jones, who claims Murray paid him for sex when Jones was a teenage prostitute in Seattle in the late 1980s.
Heckard is the only accuser to sue Murray. His latest legal complaint partly echoes details included in the initial lawsuit, filed in April. Both suits allege Murray began paying small amounts of cash to Heckard for sex in 1986, when Heckard was a homeless 15-year-old drug addict roaming the streets of Capitol Hill. Murray’s pay-for-sex relationship with Heckard allegedly continued over the next four years, the suit contends.
Heckard, 46, has said he came forward with his accusations this year only after his father’s recent death and subsequent counseling for decades of addiction problems prompted him to seek “accountability” against Murray. The new lawsuit states Heckard didn’t know about Simpson or Anderson until The Times reported on their respective claims in the first news story about Heckard’s lawsuit in April.
Heckard’s allegations, coupled with those of Simpson and Anderson, dropped a bombshell into Seattle’s political scene during an election year in which Murray was expected to coast to a second term.
Murray adamantly denied the allegations. He claimed they were driven by homophobic opponents targeting him for his progressive record that championed gay rights. Murray and his attorneys initially attacked his accusers’ past drug use and criminal histories while vowing he wouldn’t drop out of the mayor’s race.
But after taking polls, Murray in May announced he would end his re-election bid and leave politics after finishing his first mayoral term at year’s end.
Heckard dropped his lawsuit in mid-June, vowing to refile the case after Murray left office and he completed drug rehab. The voluntary dismissal came on the heels of several adverse legal rulings against Heckard’s case, including court-ordered sanctions imposed against his lead attorney, Lincoln Beauregard, for what the judge called “troubling” court filings aimed to generate publicity.
Murray seized on the moment, holding a news conference at City Hall where, flanked by city officials and family, the mayor declared “vindication.”
But in July, after The Times obtained records showing an Oregon Child Protective Services investigation from 1984 had found that Murray had sexually abused Simpson, Murray’s political support began to erode. Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez and Kshama Sawant called for his resignation, as did the city’s Human Rights and LGBTQ commissions.
Later that month, Heckard, who self-identifies as gay and contends he isn’t political, filed a tort claim against the city for $1 million to $3 million in damages, alleging the mayor’s public claims that Heckard was part of an anti-gay plot of lies amounted to defamation. The claim also signaled Heckard’s intent to add the city to his legal case against Murray.
Still, Murray remained in office until his cousin, Dyer, came forward in September. He alleged that Murray had sexually abused him as a boy for about a year while Murray lived with Dyer’s family in New York in the 1970s.
After Murray’s resignation, an emotional Heckard broke down when telling a reporter he had hated to drop his lawsuit because “the public felt I was lying and that really hurt.”
With the suit refiled, Heckard expressed relief Monday, saying the matter is now “in God’s hands.”
“For me, and hopefully the other victims, I can move on with my life,” he said. “I’m not tripping about money or him going to jail. Whatever happens happens. We’ll just let the justice system prevail.”
Heckard’s latest lawsuit cites Murray’s June news conference, as well as statements made by Bagshaw and Harrell that supported Murray remaining in office, as actions enabling Murray to slander and re-victimize Heckard and others.
Without naming her, Heckard’s latest complaint — written by Beauregard — also criticizes King County Superior Court Judge Veronica Alicea Galvan for what are described as “politically influenced rulings,” including the sanctions order against Beauregard.
In an unusual twist, Heckard’s latest lawsuit also was assigned to Galvan. Beauregard, who has since appealed the sanctions, said Monday he will use an affidavit of prejudice to remove Galvan from the case and get another judge assigned.
By refiling the suit, Heckard’s case is considered a new complaint that brings with it that onetime procedural tool to remove a judge.
Under Washington civil law procedural rules, plaintiffs can drop a complaint once before trial and later refile, as long as they haven’t rested their case or the defendant has not countersued. Neither had occurred when Heckard dropped his initial suit.