John Lovick (left) and Jeff Sax.

John Lovick (left) and Jeff Sax.

Election rival: Lovick was sex abuse suspect in ’90s

Sax posts online excerpts from investigations that produced no charges. Lovick denies allegations.

MILL CREEK — State and county authorities investigated allegations of physical and sexual abuse against state Rep. John Lovick in the mid-90s, according to public documents posted online Thursday by his Republican opponent in the general election.

None of the investigations resulted in charges and the purported victim denied anything happened.

But Jeff Sax, the Republican challenger, said Thursday he felt compelled to release the records.

In a statement posted on Facebook and later sent to reporters, Sax contended the public “has the right to know about investigations and allegations of child sex abuse by a powerful and well-connected politician” and parents have the right to know “so they can make their own decisions regarding their children.”

“I feel morally compelled to make these records public. If I keep this information hidden like it has been for 20 years, and then something were to happen to a child, I could never forgive myself,” Sax wrote. He declined to comment beyond his posted statement.

Lovick, 67, denied the allegations.

“It did not happen,” he said, adding he was never interviewed by investigators. He also provided statements from two of his children in which they recant accusations they leveled against their father nearly three decades ago as teenagers.

Lovick has known for weeks that Sax had obtained the records and braced for their release. But in a conversation hours before they appeared online Thursday, he did not have a formal reply prepared.

“You don’t have to prepare to tell the truth,” he said. “You tell the truth and stand by the statements of my children.”

Thursday’s development intensified what had been a generally quiet electoral battle.

Sax, 56, a Snohomish resident and former Snohomish County councilman, is trying to unseat Lovick, a Mill Creek resident and mainstay of the county political scene for the past two decades. Lovick is in his second stint in the Legislature after serving as the sheriff and executive of Snohomish County. Lovick defeated Sax in the primary 57.2 percent to 42.8 percent.

On Sept. 6, Chad Minnick, Sax’s campaign consultant, emailed a file to The Daily Herald with roughly 25 pages of material obtained through public records requests and court files. Minnick said he had sent the same documents weeks earlier to reporters of at least one newspaper and television station in Seattle, and a public radio station. Several Republican state lawmakers had also been given copies.

The Herald scrutinized the documents and worked to confirm their origin. Lovick was interviewed several times. Two of his children — whose names are not mentioned in any of the 11 pages posted Thursday — sent statements to the paper. They also responded to follow-up questions by phone and email. Editors at The Herald decided to not publish a story at the time because a person listed as the victim denied any illicit acts occurred.

“This was a straightforward journalism decision,” said Executive Editor Neal Pattison. “The documents were from an investigation that produced no charges. And the purported victim communicated with us directly to deny these things happened.”

After Sax publicly injected the allegations into the campaign, The Herald decided the disclosure was newsworthy.

Among the released documents are an incident report for a sexual abuse investigation initiated by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and an intake report from state Child Protective Services.

The sheriff’s office undertook the investigation at the request of Mill Creek police because Lovick served on the Mill Creek City Council at the time. A therapist told the sheriff’s sergeant conducting the investigation that a client claimed she had been sexually abused by Lovick as a child. And another witness, in a handwritten note to investigators, told of seeing Lovick on two occasions masturbate in the presence of a child who was asleep at the time.

The sheriff’s office investigation took place in the early months of 1996, seven years after Lovick and his first wife, Deborah, divorced. She is among the witnesses contacted.

The sergeant handling the report determined allegations of physical abuse made against Lovick were beyond the statute of limitations. And the sexual abuse investigation was closed because the presumed victim “does not want to pursue a criminal investigation into these allegations.”

Although no charges were filed, Minnick said collectively they paint a picture of the veteran lawmaker which should disturb constituents.

And he said in a Sept. 6 interview there was no plan to post them online. He said he and Sax hoped the news media would make them available to the public.

“We want to let the documents speak for themselves,” Minnick said. “I don’t know if this is going to change everything and elect my client. The public needs to hear about it.”

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Seattle, chairman of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, said he was aware of the allegations as well as the statements from Lovick’s children refuting them.

He also claimed Minnick and Kevin Carns, political director of the House Republican Organizational Committee have engaged in spreading unsubstantiated allegations in previous elections. “It is something we’ve seen them do many times, ” he said.

“John has been very clear that these allegations are not true. More importantly, his children have made clear these allegations are not true,” he said. “I believe the words of John’s children more than I believe the words of Chad Minnick, Kevin Carns or Jeff Sax.”

The general election is Nov. 6.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald Twitter: @dospueblos.

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