In a departure for City Council members, Kshama Sawant commented on allegations of sexual abuse by Mayor Ed Murray, saying “ ... it is vital to not remain silent on a matter such as this.”
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant said Wednesday the city has been “shaken” by allegations that Mayor Ed Murray sexually abused teens in the 1980s.
Sawant spoke out generally against trying charges “in a court of public opinion.” She shared no view on whether Murray should step away from office or carry on, as he has vowed to do.
“While I cannot speak to the veracity of the claims, allegations of rape and abuse should always be taken seriously and investigated with care and diligence,” Sawant said in a written statement.
“Our society, plagued by inequality and enormous imbalances of both power and wealth, is a painful place for sexual-violence survivors.”
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The mayor, running for re-election this year, has vigorously denied the claims. An attorney representing Murray has questioned the credibility of the Kent man who sued the mayor last week.
In a statement Wednesday reiterating his position on the lawsuit, Murray asked for support from the people of Seattle.
“I will continue to lead this city as mayor. I will continue to run for re-election, so that we can sustain and build upon the progress we have made in my first term,” he said, mentioning work on issues such as homelessness and police reform.
Sawant’s statement sets her apart from other council members, who to this point have chosen to remain quiet about the allegations.
“I believe such serious charges must not be tried in a court of public opinion, which is so often cruel to survivors, and can be unjust for everyone involved,” she said.
On Monday, Council President Bruce Harrell released a written statement saying he and the council’s other members had “no intention of commenting on matters of pending or potential litigation. We believe that it is critically important that, together, we remain committed to the business of governing.”
In an interview Wednesday, Sawant said Harrell had issued those remarks without her input.
The 46-year-old Kent man suing the mayor says Murray “raped and molested” him over several years, beginning in 1986, when the man was a 15-year-old high-school dropout.
The man’s lawyer, Lincoln Beauregard, filed a formal court notice Wednesday to have Murray deposed on May 2.
Beauregard said in the deposition notice that Murray can expect to be questioned about “the facts of this case, including the various potential causes of the medical matters” that the mayor’s attorney has referenced.
At a news conference Tuesday, Murray’s attorney said a doctor’s examination, showing no trace of a growth or mole on the mayor’s genitals, disproves a key claim in the lawsuit.
“Without offering any evidence, the accuser has described me in very specific and intimate detail, and his accusation depends on these descriptions being accurate.” the mayor said in his statement Wednesday.
“If this description is inaccurate, the accusation cannot be credible. Yesterday, I provided material evidence refuting the accusation. The accusation should be laid to rest.”
Separate from the lawsuit, two other men also have accused Murray of decades-ago sexual abuse, in recent interviews with The Seattle Times. The men, Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Anderson, said they first met Murray when they lived at a center for troubled children in Portland, where Murray worked from 1977 to 1980.
Simpson claims he was Murray’s foster son and that Murray repeatedly raped him and later paid him for sex. Murray was a certified foster parent from Nov. 4, 1982 to March 19, 1984, the Oregon Department of Human Services confirmed Wednesday.
No criminal charges were filed against Murray, despite Simpson’s accusation to authorities in 1984.
The lawsuit and the other allegations have led to political upheaval, as supporters try to decide whether to continue backing Murray’s campaign and potential opponents weigh whether to jump into the mayoral race.
Sawant said Wednesday she’s not mulling a run.
“I’m not thinking of running for mayor,” she said in the interview. “This is a very sad situation and whether the mayor should stay or not is really a question for him.”
Sawant spoke earlier this month at mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver‘s campaign launch party.