Delvonn Heckard says in a claim filed with the city clerk that he was defamed when Seattle Mayor Ed Murray used his “position of power” to falsely accuse him of participating in an “anti-gay right wing conspiracy.”
The Kent man who recently filed, then withdrew, a lawsuit that claimed Seattle Mayor Ed Murray sexually abused him decades ago now wants $1 million to $3 million from the city, contending Murray used his public office to defame him.
According to his claim, Delvonn Heckard, 46, is seeking damages for harm he says he experienced when Murray, “utilizing and abusing his position of power” as mayor “falsely and defamatorily accused Mr. Heckard, a gay man, of participating in an anti-gay right wing conspiracy along with other victims including Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Anderson.”
The two-page claim form, submitted Wednesday on Heckard’s behalf by his attorney, Lincoln Beauregard, contends Murray’s private lawyers and personal spokesman participated in the alleged defamation “during various press conferences over a period of months.”
“It was recently confirmed that there was no conspiracy and Mayor Murray fabricated these allegations for political gain and in order to silence Mr. Heckard, and other victims,” the claim states.
Benton Strong, the mayor’s spokesman, declined to comment Thursday, directing questions to Julie Moore, a spokeswoman for the city’s finance department. Moore said later the city doesn’t comment on open claims investigations.
Murray, 62, a longtime politician and gay-rights champion, has roundly denied the allegations by Heckard and three other men who have made similar abuse accusations this year. The mayor, at times, has asserted the allegations were somehow coordinated and driven by lawyers or others targeting his politics.
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“I was the leading gay figure, the leading LGBT figure in the state for almost 20 years (and) under constant attack from the far right,” Murray said this month.
Filed in April, Heckard’s lawsuit alleged Murray paid him for sex multiple times, starting when Heckard was a 15-year-old drug addict on Capitol Hill in the late 1980s.
Simpson and Anderson — who both met Murray in the late 1970s when they lived at a Portland group home for kids — also separately allege that Murray sexually exploited them as teens in the 1980s. Lavon Jones, a friend of Heckard’s who lives in Seattle, contends Murray twice paid him for sex, when he was a teen prostitute hooked on drugs in the 1980s. All of Murray’s accusers have acknowledged serious criminal and drug histories and dispute that politics is driving their claims.
Heckard, the only accuser to sue Murray, has said he doesn’t know Simpson or Anderson and never conspired with either man. He made his allegations public after his father died and he sought counseling for his problems, he said.
Simpson, 49, of Gladstone, Ore., and Anderson, 52, of Navarre, Fla., have separately said they don’t know Heckard. Simpson has said that Ken Hutcherson, the late Christian minister and gay-rights opponent, was among reporters, lawmakers and others he contacted in 2008 when trying to make his accusations public after giving up on pursuing his own lawsuit.
“I did it so Ed could be held accountable, not just for me but for the other children that he did this to,” Simpson said this year.
Fallout from the scandal led Murray to announce in May he wouldn’t seek a second termand would leave politics once his mayoral term expires at year’s end.
In June, Heckard dropped his lawsuit, saying he planned to refile it in January after Murray leaves office. Murray quickly held a news conference at City Hall, where, with staff members by his side, he declared vindication, contending the decision to withdraw the lawsuit proved he’d been the victim of a “political takedown.”
If the city denies his claim, Heckard could sue the city. Under state law, a claimant must file such a tort claim with a government at least 60 days before filing a lawsuit.
In an email, Beauregard declined to elaborate on his client’s reasons for the claim beyond what’s explicitly stated in the form, but he noted that recently released Oregon child-welfare records about Simpson support Heckard’s claim.
“As a point of advocacy, the 1984 Simpson stuff proves that there is no right-wing conspiracy, unless I time traveled,” Beauregard said.
This month, The Seattle Times obtained records from Oregon’s Department of Human Services showing a child-welfare investigator concluded in 1984 that Murray raped and otherwise sexually abused Simpson before and while he lived with Murray as a foster son in the 1980s. The administrative findings led officials to assert Murray should never again be certified as a foster parent in Oregon.
Murray was not charged with a crime. A prosecutor withdrew a criminal case against Murray and another foster parent Simpson accused of abuse, because of problems the then-troubled teenager presented in proving the allegations, but not because she thought Simpson was lying, the records also show.
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In interviews and other statements, Murray also has noted that the Faith and Freedom Network, a conservative group that opposed his work on gay rights, sought to publicize Simpson’s allegations to the media and state legislators in 2008.
After The Times’ story about the Oregon records, four of the top six mayoral candidates said Murray should resign, and Seattle City Councilmember M. Lorena González said Murray should consider it.
The city’s LGBTQ Commission also sent Murray a letter requesting he step down and describing his claims that the allegations are homophobic and politically motivated as “silencing, manipulative, and morally repugnant.”
Other council members, including Bruce Harrell, Lisa Herbold, Sally Bagshaw and Debora Juarez, said “no proof” has emerged to cause the council to seek Murray’s removal from office. Four former Seattle mayors also issued a statement saying Murray “should continue to lead the city.”
Murray has issued his own statement saying that he has no plans to resign and that doing so would “bring the City’s business to a grinding halt.”