Seattle Mayor Ed Murray was accused in a lawsuit this week of "repeatedly and criminally raping and molesting" a teenage boy decades ago, a charge denied by the mayor, who vowed continue to run for re-election.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday by a 46-year-old man identified only as D.H., alleges that he met Murray in the mid-1980s, when he was a 15-year-old homeless high school dropout and drug addict. Murray, in his early 30s at the time, paid D.H. for sex acts at his home in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, the lawsuit says. It details some of those alleged encounters with graphic details, including descriptions of Murray's genitals.
The accuser, who spent some time as a prostitute and admits to having past criminal convictions, says in the lawsuit that he decided to come forward publicly with the allegations after receiving counseling following the recent death of his father.
"These moments of reflection, and awareness that Mr. Murray maintains a position of authority, prompted the filing of this lawsuit in an attempt at accountability, and to hopefully give courage for other potential victims to come forward and speak out," the lawsuit says.
Murray, 61, who is openly gay and married, has championed gay rights and touts his work on behalf of "vulnerable populations." His lawyer and spokesman said the allegations were false.
Murray at a press conference Friday afternoon called the accusations “painful” and untrue, and said he would continue to serve as mayor and run for reelection.
"Let me be clear: These allegations, dating back to a period of more than 30 years, are simply not true,” Murray said. "Things have never come easy to me in life, but I have never backed down and I will not back down now."
Representatives of the mayor said the allegation was timed to damage his Murray’s re-election campaign.
Spokesman Jeff Reading called the lawsuit a "shakedown effort" timed weeks before the May 19 mayoral campaign filing deadline. "Mayor Murray has never engaged in an inappropriate relationship with any minor," Reading said in a statement.
D.H. is seeking unspecified monetary damages, the lawsuit says. D.H.'s lawyer did not immediately return calls for comment Friday.
Murray's lawyer, Robert Sulkin, added to the denials in a press conference. "Think about it. For 30 years nothing was said, and all of a sudden an accuser comes who appears, it has been reported, has a long criminal record, and makes these allegations."
Sulkin and Reading also acknowledged that there were similar accusations made by two other men to lawyers, reporters and lawmakers in 2007. Those accusations did not go public at the time, however.
One man, Jeff Simpson, spoke to NBC Seattle affiliate KING 5 and Portland NBC affiliate KGW, saying he met Murray while living in an orphanage, and that the future mayor "was my only parent figure." He said he told workers at a group home what had happened, and the alleged abuse stopped.
Simpson told the Seattle Times that he hired a lawyer to bring a case against Murray in 2007, but the lawyer backed out. Simpson told the paper and then called media organizations and Washington state lawmakers. At the time, Murray was a state senator; the allegations did not become public, and did not hinder his political career. Simpson told reporters that he'd be willing to testify in a civil trial.
The other man told the Seattle Times that he told Simpson's legal team about his experiences with Murray.
The accusers recently identified themselves in interviews with the Seattle Times, which detailed the entire set of allegations this week. The newspaper said it previously chose not to report the earlier 2007 allegations, but decided to do so this week because similarities with the new allegations gave them "additional weight and relevance."
The men told the newspaper that Murray paid them for sex when they were teenagers living in Portland, Oregon.
Sulkin said the prior allegations had already been deemed not credible. Reading said they'd been "promoted by extreme right-wing antigay activists" during the state's battle over gay marriage.
Both Murray representatives said the mayor would "vigorously" fight D.H.'s lawsuit.