Jeff Simpson’s lawsuit contends the City Council and other public officials failed to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and enabled Mayor Ed Murray to stay in office for months to use city personnel and other resources to falsely deny abuse claims.
Ed Murray’s former foster son sued the city of Seattle and its ex-mayor on Friday, claiming Murray improperly used the city’s highest office to defame him and other men who separately accused Murray of decades-old child sexual abuse during a scandal last year that forced Murray to step down.
Jeff Simpson’s lawsuit also contends the City Council and other public officials negligently failed to investigate his and the other men’s allegations, and otherwise supported Murray, enabling him to stay in office for months to further slander his accusers and use city personnel and other resources to falsely deny their abuse claims.
“Both Mr. Murray, who absolutely knew these claims were true, and the City of Seattle leaders, who did absolutely nothing to determine whether the accusations were true, demonstrated a reckless disregard for the truth that may support punitive damages,” according to Simpson’s complaint, filed in King County Superior Court by his attorney, Cheryl Snow. “These actions, enabling and watching future leaders of the community accept Mr. Murray’s endorsement, caused added emotional distress and humiliation to Jeff Simpson and childhood sex abuse victims everywhere.”
Steve Fogg, Murray’s attorney, said in an emailed statement Friday that Murray is looking forward to a trial.
“For more than a decade, Mr. Simpson has been peddling these baseless claims, seeking to turn them into money,” Fogg’s email said. “My client never molested Mr. Simpson, and he will not be extorted. We look forward to a trial in open court to reveal the falseness of Mr. Simpson’s allegations once and for all.”
Dan Nolte, a spokesman for Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, said in an email Friday the office had not yet seen Simpson’s complaint. Once it did, “we’ll review it and consider our potential next steps,” Nolte said.
Murray, who turned 63 this week, has persistently denied all of his accusers’ allegations. He resigned in September, hours after The Seattle Times published allegations from his younger cousin — the fifth man to come forward last year with claims that Murray had raped and molested him as a teenager decades earlier.
Simpson, 50, now a married father and recovered addict who lives in Gladstone, Oregon, is the second accuser to sue Murray and the city for defamation and negligence related to the respective sexual-abuse claims.
Delvonn Heckard sued Murray and the city last year, ultimately receiving a $150,000 settlement. Heckard, 47, died in an Auburn motel about a month after he accidentally overdosed on heroin and drugs prescribed to him for anxiety and depression.
Simpson filed his lawsuit, as expected, after the city did not approve a tort claim he filed in February that sought more than $1 million in damages. Such claims against government agencies generally serve as precursors to lawsuits.
The suit cites several public statements made last year by Murray; his personal spokesman, Jeff Reading; his former attorney, Robert Sulkin; and his husband, city parks official Michael Shiosaki, as slanderous toward him and other victims.
According to the lawsuit, Murray and the others falsely claimed the accusers were part of an anti-gay conspiracy targeting the mayor for his politics.
The lawsuit specifically cites an opinion piece Murray published in the alternative weekly newspaper, The Stranger, in which he “suggested Jeff is homophobic or anti-gay,” and noted Simpson’s criminal history “proves he cannot be trusted.”
The suit also points to public statements in support of Murray during the scandal made by council members Sally Bagshaw and Bruce Harrell, and notes Bagshaw’s behind-the-scenes work to wrangle council support of Murray to extinguish a public call for him to resign.
The lawsuit also alleges that Murray, Sulkin and Reading repeatedly lied about Simpson being aligned with an anti-gay organization, and noted Sulkin falsely claimed Simpson’s allegations previously had been “debunked” by law enforcement and the media.
Simpson’s allegations that Murray raped and molested him while he knew and later lived with Murray as his foster son in Portland during the early 1980s are supported by an Oregon state administrative finding that Murray committed the alleged abuse.
Records initially believed destroyed, but discovered and released to The Times in July, show an Oregon Child Protective Services’ caseworker who investigated Simpson’s claims in 1984 found them “valid for oral and anal sodomy, molestation, sexual harassment, and intimidation and exploitation.”
Most Read Local Stories
- Is fare enforcement unconstitutional? WA Supreme Court case could have sweeping effects
- 5 incarcerated teens attack staff, escape from juvenile facility near Snoqualmie
- Seattle's post-5 p.m. sunsets are here
- Coronavirus daily news updates, January 26: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world
- 1 of 5 teens who escaped from juvenile facility near Snoqualmie caught
The findings led child-welfare officials to informally determine that Murray should never again be certified as a foster provider in that state.
The Oregon records also show a Multnomah County prosecutor withdrew a criminal case against Murray the same year because of Simpson’s emotional troubles, not because she didn’t believe him. At the time, the teenager abused drugs and was prone to street crime and running away, the records show.
Both Simpson and another man, Lloyd Anderson, met Murray as children in the late-1970s, while they lived at a Portland group home where Murray worked as a counselor. Simpson contends Murray began raping and molesting him at age 13, and later paid him numerous times for sex throughout his teenage years.
Anderson, who claims Simpson told him about Murray’s alleged abuse while it was happening, contends Murray also later paid him for sex while he was a teen living on the streets of Portland.
Both men tried to pursue a lawsuit against Murray in 2007, when he was a Washington state senator. But the suit never came together, and their allegations were never publicized. The Portland attorney who represented Simpson said he dropped the case after concluding Oregon’s statute of limitations for filing a sex-abuse suit had lapsed.
Afterward, Simpson called several reporters and lawmakers, as well as Ken Hutcherson, an anti-gay pastor, during failed attempts to publicize his claims about Murray. The Times opted not to run a story at the time because it found scant records to corroborate Simpson’s claims.
Heckard, who said he didn’t know Simpson or Anderson, separately filed his initial lawsuit against Murray in April 2017, raising similar allegations. He claimed Murray paid him small amounts of cash for sexual activity in Murray’s Capitol Hill apartment over several years, beginning when Heckard was a 15-year-old drug addict.
After withdrawing, then later refiling his suit and adding the city as a defendant, Heckard’s attorney, Lincoln Beauregard, negotiated a settlement with Fogg and Holmes in December.
In exchange for the city’s payment, Heckard agreed to drop his legal complaint against Seattle and Murray.