King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Mike Hogan outed himself as gay when he wrote an affidavit arguing that a superior court judge was too biased to fairly hear the county’s first date-rape case involving two men.

It was 1985, when gay and lesbian professionals – especially those working in government – largely remained closeted for fear of losing their jobs and when misinformation surrounding the AIDS epidemic fueled anti-gay prejudice. In Seattle, it was also a time when gay men were regularly beaten for sport.

The victim in the date-rape case had agreed to safe sex, but was beaten and then raped without a condom — so Hogan had to explain in the affidavit and later to a jury what safe sex meant in the gay community and why the case amounted to rape.

“It was a very difficult time. It was frightening … I knew gay men were getting beat up on Capitol Hill and I knew it was gay bashing,” said Hogan, 63. “If you indicated insider knowledge of gay life, you were telegraphing that you were gay.”

Hogan prevailed and a new judge presided. The jury found the defendant guilty.

Hogan would go on to spend the bulk of his legal career prosecuting hate crimes — and those who know him say his own experiences as a gay man have made him a staunch defender of people who are targets of hate and violence due to immutable characteristics, such as race, gender or sexual orientation. After 36 years, he is retiring for health reasons and Wednesday is his last day in the prosecutor’s office.

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“He’s been a spiritual leader for us in so many ways,” prosecutor Dan Satterberg said of Hogan. “He’s a very courageous person. He just wants to make sure people know we do care and they don’t have to tolerate the fear or the violence for being who they are.”

First-hand experience

In addition to his trial work, Hogan has helped train police officers and prosecutors across the state on how to investigate and try hate crimes; served on the board of the Anti-Defamation League and the Seattle Police Department’s East African Advisory Council; and built relationships with members of the county’s LGBTQ, Black, Jewish, Muslim and immigrant and refugee communities.

Born on Capitol Hill, Hogan is the fourth of six siblings whose Irish Catholic parents were among the founding families of St. Philomena Catholic Church and School in Des Moines, where he grew up. He studied political science at the University of Washington and during the summers worked as a sleeping-car porter on The Empire Builder, an Amtrak train that runs between Seattle and Chicago.

After graduating from the UW in 1975, Hogan attended law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, for a year, but transferred to The University of Puget Sound in Tacoma after learning Pepperdine, a Christian university, would have expelled him if school officials found out he was gay.

Hogan joined the prosecutor’s office in February 1984, and started out prosecuting sexual assaults, murders and vehicular homicides. Today, he lives on Capitol Hill with his Shetland sheepdog, Lucky.

Because of Hogan’s own experiences as a target of bias or hate, he understands that hate crimes spread ripples of fear and anxiety through an entire community, said Seattle police officer Jim Ritter.

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“Mike has lived and experienced it many times over, which gives him enormous credibility and passion. When Mike speaks, people listen and feel it in their gut, and even if they haven’t experienced it, they can empathize,” said Ritter, who is gay and spearheaded the department’s Safe Places initiative. The program recruits businesses to provide a refuge for victims of assault and harassment, particularly members of the city’s LBGTQ community.

Hogan said he has twice been the victim of a hate crime himself. In the mid-80s, he was walking with a gay friend on Capitol Hill and a group of “drunken jocks” used a gay slur and chased them — straight into the arms of Seattle police officers. The suspects were arrested and later participated in a pre-trial diversion program, Hogan said.

The second incident didn’t end nearly so well. Hogan was living in Madison Valley when the Bailey-Boushay House was being built to treat AIDS patients. One Saturday, a man taped racist, anti-gay posters to telephone poles in the neighborhood, including the pole in front of Hogan’s house. Hogan took the poster down and the man became incensed, called Hogan a slur and threatened to kill him. Hogan called police.

He soon learned the case was marked inactive for lack of a suspect — even though the suspect’s name was on the posters.

“When the police handled it right, I felt very good about the system and the process. But when you get blown off by what appears to be bias, it gives you a negative experience of the system,” he said.

He recalled after he won the date-rape case, then-King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng called Hogan into his office – and commended him for the personal risk he took in seeking justice for the victim.

“To have a Republican prosecutor be so fair-minded [made Maleng] so ahead of his time,” Hogan said.

Then in his late 20s, Hogan said the prosecutor’s office was a place “I felt I could be myself.”

In the 1980s, Ritter said, Hogan was “a one-man team” talking about sexual violence and tensions between the LBGTQ community and police.

“I think the community owes him a debt of gratitude because he had the bravery to talk about these difficult issues,” said Ritter.

Injuries, threats, property damage

Of the nation’s 16,000 law enforcement agencies, only 2,000 of them submitted incident reports documenting just over 7,100 hate crimes to the FBI in 2018, the last year federal data is available. Police in Washington reported 506 hate crimes, fourth behind California (1,063), New Jersey (561) and New York (523), the data shows.

But to Hogan and Seattle police Detective Beth Wareing, who investigates bias crimes, the statistics represent only a fraction of the hate-related reports they see — and both say that while reporting has increased, hate crimes remain underreported across the board, especially among Latinos.

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Wareing said even though Seattle police have worked to spread the word that officers won’t ask a crime victim about his or her immigration status or share information with federal agencies, it’s still challenging to overcome people’s fears and convince them to report a hate crime.

“The numbers for anti-Latino crimes are extremely low and extremely flat and no, I don’t believe those numbers are accurate,” she said.

Last year, about 700 bias-related incidents were reported in King County, including 500 reported to Seattle police, according to Hogan and Wareing. But not all of them rose to the level of a crime.

In 2019, the state Legislature changed the name of the crime previously known as “malicious harassment” to “hate crime.” A hate crime is committed when someone injures, threatens or damages property based on perceptions of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, or mental, physical or sensory disability.

If a hate crime case does not include physical injuries or property damage, a jury has to find that a threat was subjectively present to convict, said Hogan, who typically filed 20 to 25 hate-crime cases a year.

“It has to be the kind of threat that an average, reasonable person in the shoes of the victim would find threatening,” he said.

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In Seattle, Black and LBGTQ people are the most frequent targets of criminal and noncriminal bias, according to police data.

“The majority of the cases I’ve seen here over the years [involve] drunken bullies…and people with mental illness and some combination of alcohol and drug abuse,” Hogan said of hate crime defendants.

So long as a hate crime doesn’t involve a weapon or serious injury, Hogan said some cases can be moved to mental health court where perpetrators can be ordered into treatment or get help getting back on their medications.

After becoming the bias crime detective in 2015, Wareing said she’s relied on Hogan’s expertise and has talked to him weekly for the past five years.

“In all the years he’s been a prosecutor, he’s never lost his humanity,” Wareing said. “When I read him the facts of a case, his response is usually something like, ‘My God, how awful that must have been. Can you imagine?’ It’s one of my favorite things about him.”

Hisham Farajallah, a member of the executive board that runs Northgate’s Idris Mosque, met Hogan around 2006 when the mosque was the scene of two hate crimes and was receiving anti-Muslim threats.

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“We found Mike exceptional. He shows he cares, he shows he’s really sincere and is authentic,” said Farajallah. “As a human, we feel it, so that in itself built trust.”

Hogan has attended dinners and social events at the mosque over the years — and Farajallah said there’s always a line of people waiting to talk to Hogan and shake his hand.

“He is a very wise man. He will be missed,” Farajallah said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Hogan attended law school in Seattle, but the university he attended was in Tacoma.