A Portland man’s effort to sue Mayor Ed Murray in 2007 over allegations of sexual abuse collapsed because of the statute of limitations — not credibility issues, his attorney said.

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A Portland man’s effort to sue Seattle Mayor Ed Murray a decade ago over alleged sexual abuse foundered because of statute of limitations issues — not credibility concerns, the man’s attorney said Thursday.

Brian Williams, the former attorney for Jeff Simpson, who pursued the lawsuit in 2007, said he found his client’s story believable. He also located a second man, Lloyd Anderson, who alleged that as a teen he had been paid by Murray for sex.

But after a legal analysis, Williams said he concluded Oregon law barred a lawsuit so many years after the abuse allegedly took place in the 1980s.

“I don’t ultimately know whether the allegation was true or not, but there was a lot of evidence to back it up,” Williams said in an interview.

Ed Murray investigation

Murray is facing allegations from three men who claim he sexually abused them decades ago.

A 46-year-old Kent man sued the mayor last week, claiming that Murray raped and molested him when the man was a teenager. Simpson and Anderson, who said they knew each other at a Portland center for troubled children, made their allegations in recent interviews with The Seattle Times.

Murray has strongly denied the allegations and said he intends to continue to serve as mayor and seek re-election this fall.

“Let me be clear, the allegations, dating back to a period of more than 30 years, are simply not true,” he said last week. He repeated the denial in a statement on Wednesday, and asked for the public’s support.

In 2007, Katherine Heekin, Murray’s attorney at the time, sought to ward off a lawsuit by attacking Simpson’s reputation, pointing to a lengthy criminal history that included robbery, drug and prostitution convictions.

Williams said he had notified Murray back then of Simpson’s allegations and plans to file a lawsuit.

In a Dec. 4, 2007, letter to Williams, Heekin wrote “your client is totally untrustworthy and will lie, cheat or steal as necessary to get what he wants.”

Heekin also wrote that Oregon’s statute of limitations prohibited a lawsuit in any case, in part because Simpson had reported the alleged abuse to authorities in 1984, triggering a criminal investigation that concluded with no charges being filed.

Williams responded with a letter three days later, saying he’d been fully aware of Simpson’s criminal record, which his client had not tried to hide.

He added he’d gone to some lengths to corroborate Simpson’s allegations, including interviewing Anderson, and had a “good faith basis” for a lawsuit.

“In short, the investigation we have been able to complete to this point indicates Mr. Simpson is telling the truth and is the victim of long-term sex abuse by your client,” he wrote.

Nevertheless, by February 2008, Williams concluded such a lawsuit could not succeed based on the statute of limitations. He withdrew representation from Simpson, encouraging him to contact another attorney who might have a different interpretation of the law, or reach out to the media.

Williams said Simpson didn’t appear to be motivated by financial gain, since Murray in 2007 was a state legislator with a modest salary. “He didn’t care about the money. He wanted people to know what had happened,” he said.

In an interview Thursday, Heekin said she’d been brought in to assist Murray with his defense against the Kent man’s lawsuit.

Regarding her 2007 representation of Murray, she said she saw no credible evidence that backed Simpson’s claims, and she told his lawyer that. “It just seemed … I didn’t know why Brian would want to pursue a case that didn’t have any basis in fact,” she said.