SPOKANE, Wash. — Two men have accused Mayor James E. West of molesting them when they were boys and he was a sheriff’s deputy and Boy Scout leader, The Spokesman-Review reported Thursday.
West, 54, a conservative Republican leader of the state Senate before he was elected mayor in 2003, denied ever having had sex with children and vowed Thursday that he would serve out his four-year term.
He confirmed in an interview with the newspaper that he offered gifts, favors and a City Hall internship over the Web site Gay.com to someone he believed was 18 but who was actually a forensic computer expert working for the newspaper.
In a brief news conference Thursday in which he took no questions, West repeated his denial of the molestation allegations. He said he “had relations with adult men. I don’t deny that.”
“I am a law-abiding citizen,” West said.
Admits online relationships
West, who as an elected official has opposed gay rights, abortion rights and teenage sex, told the newspaper he had had online relationships in the past year through Gay.com and considered them private.
“My private life is my private life and always has been,” he said. Concerning his sexual orientation, “I wouldn’t characterize me as ‘gay,”’ West said. West was married for about five years in the 1990s.
The child molestation accusations against West, dating from his years as a sheriff’s deputy, were made in a deposition for a lawsuit against Spokane County by Robert J. Galliher, 36, of Seattle.
That lawsuit sought damages for Galliher, his older brother Brett and two other men, who claim they were molested by another deputy at the time, David Hahn. Hahn committed suicide in 1981.
A second man, Michael G. Grant Jr., 31, made similar allegations against West in an interview, the newspaper said.
Mayor calls accounts ‘flat lies’
In an interview Wednesday night with the newspaper, West said both accounts were “flat lies.”
“I didn’t abuse them. I don’t know these people. I didn’t abuse anybody, and I didn’t have sex with anybody under 18, ever, woman or man,” West told the newspaper.
In interviews with the newspaper, Galliher and Grant said they were introduced to West by Hahn in the late 1970s or early ’80s, when the two deputies were leaders of Boy Scout Troop 345.
Galliher said he was molested at least four times by West, twice while West was on duty in uniform. Grant, in jail on a drug conviction, said he was sexually abused twice by West. Grant said West told him that “if I was to tell anybody, that he would kill my mom ... that she would not exist no more.”
West was not named as a defendant in Galliher’s suit and said he was unaware of the deposition.
Explains use of gay Web site
He did discuss using the Web site Gay.com. “I can’t tell you why I go there, to tell you the truth ... curiosity, confused, whatever, I don’t know,” West said.
The newspaper hired a former U.S. Customs Service agent who had helped law enforcement identify pedophiles online. The former agent confirmed that West was the man behind online identities “Cobra82nd” and “RightBi-Guy,” the newspaper said.
West denied that his offers to the forensic expert posing as an 18-year-old male constituted “enticements to teenagers” or abuse of his public office.
“Any kid in this town who walked into my office and filled out an application and could come to work, dressed properly and clean, could be an intern in my office,” the mayor said.
West spent two decades in the Legislature and was well-regarded for his political skills but abrasive in style. He made headlines in 1990 when he proposed marriage from the floor of the Senate to Ginger Marshall while she was visiting the Capitol. Their marriage ended five years later.
Newspaper used computer expert
Steve Smith, editor of The Spokesman-Review, told The Associated Press on Thursday the newspaper was reluctant to hire the computer expert, but felt it was necessary because of West’s apparent abuse of office and ongoing potential for harm to young people. The expert brought knowledge of tracking IP addresses and identities of chat room participants that the newsroom lacked, he said.
He also said the paper insisted that the interviews with Grant and Galliher be on the record. “That included full names, background information we needed to verify, such as names on Scouting rosters, and the ability to take photographs,” Smith said.
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