Lincoln Beauregard, the lawyer handling the sexual-abuse lawsuit against Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, is angering opponents and raising ethical questions with his aggressive tactics. He also wins multimillion-dollar judgments, not bad for a 9th-grade dropout.
The day after filing a lawsuit accusing Mayor Ed Murray of sexually abusing a teenager decades ago, lawyer Lincoln Beauregard sent a cheery — and stinging — letter to the mayor’s lawyer.
“Greetings, I am looking forward to working with you on the Mayor Ed Murray molestation lawsuit,” began the missive to Robert Sulkin. “I have heard impeccable things about your reputation as a trial lawyer.”
“We obviously saw your press conference yesterday,” Beauregard went on, referring to an appearance by Sulkin in which he categorically denied the lawsuit’s allegations and asserted that the accuser “is going to have to explain himself.”
If Murray wanted to pin the accuser to his story, he was welcome to try — “ASAP.” Beauregard would make his client available for a video deposition. And before that, could Sulkin please confirm that Murray has “the noted mole”— meaning the bump on his genitals described by his accuser, and reported in Beauregard’s salacious complaint.
The letter’s kicker: a BCC to “the local and national media.”
Did Beauregard cross an ethical line with that blind copy? In fact, has his overall behavior in the case — aggressive and media-savvy — run afoul of professional conduct rules aimed at minimizing prejudicial public comment?
Murray’s lawyers say it has, and they have asked the court to sanction Beauregard, setting off even more fireworks in an already explosive case.
Supporting the sanctions request, Seattle University ethics professor John Strait, noting the BCC to the media, wrote in a court filing that he had never seen a lawyer behave this way “in over 45 years of practice.”
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Beauregard fired back with filings, a letter to Sulkin and a Facebook post that it was the mayor who was engaged in wrongdoing, with “strong-arm” tactics that attempted to hide the truth from the public and press. The 44-year-old lawyer, who is African American, also suggested on Facebook that the mayor was trying to squash him for being “uppity.”
And then Beauregard doubled down. Late Tuesday, he filed a declaration from another man, who said Murray had paid him for sex — also as a teenager decades ago, according to Beauregard’s co-counsel, Julie Kays. That brings the number of Murray’s accusers to four, although only one is suing.
Accompanying the handwritten document: a photo of Beauregard, grinning, next to the mayor’s latest accuser in the county jail, where he is being held on drug charges.
Murray’s lawyers, in a new court filing, pounced on the declaration as an example of “escalating misconduct.” A Murray spokesman dismissed it as a “sensational media stunt.”
(Update: A judge issued sanctions Thursday afternoon, fining Beauregard $5,000 and saying he had committed “flagrant” ethical violations.)
The mayor has strongly denied ever having sex with a minor and said he doesn’t recognize Delvonn Heckard, the man suing him.
It’s sometimes hard to say who is lighting more matches in this case. The mayor and his representatives have accused Beauregard’s firm of a political conspiracy linked to an anti-LGBTQ agenda, even though Heckard is himself gay. Beauregard said the charge infuriated him and provoked him into attacking the mayor with more vigor.
Certainly, though, Beauregard is a singular character. A regular winner of multimillion-dollar judgments, he is charming and full of smiles when relaxed. At other times, he acknowledged on a recent day in his 33rd floor Smith Tower office, “I will get right up — just right up — in somebody’s face to the point where I’m allowed to do it under the rules.”
And it’s not just the mayor he pisses off.
The city accused Beauregard of trying to “smear” Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole in a lawsuit he handled last year on behalf of officers who sued the city. Lawyers for “Deadliest Catch” TV star Sig Hansen, accused of sexual abuse by his daughter in an ongoing lawsuit, claimed in legal filings that Beauregard threatened to go to the press and put a “billboard on the freeway” if his client’s economic demands weren’t met.
“Reinvented” 9th-grade dropout
Without question, his tactics have made him enormously successful in ways nobody who knew the young Beauregard might have predicted.
“I was not the person who was supposed to have a corner office in Smith Tower,” he said. Never mind the Queen Anne house — with, he said, “a really nice view of the Fremont Bridge. From my rooftop deck.”
As Beauregard describes it, he grew up in Wallingford in modest circumstances. He said his father tried various entrepreneurial projects. His mother worked for a newspaper-clipping service.
“I hate to put it this way,” Beauregard said. “I wanted to have more money.”
In honors classes, he resented his preppy classmates with their nice clothes.
As a 9th-grader at Roosevelt High School, he said, a bully backed him up against a wall and punched him. They both got suspended. He reacted to the perceived unfairness by dropping out, and got a job at a grocery store.
“It was delightful,” he said of getting his first paychecks, small as they were.
At 17, he enlisted in the Air Force, where he spent the next 8½ years and eventually decided he needed a plan for his life. Law, he decided, was it.
He was not the usual law-school hopeful. He had a terrible grade-point average and a G.E.D. But he loaded up on college-correspondence classes and wrote, in a University of Washington law-school application, an essay entitled “I was educationally reinvented.”
“People love that stuff,” Beauregard said.
He set his mind to becoming a prosecutor, a path he saw leading to politics. He was intrigued by the “game” and inspired by one of its best practitioners: then-President Bill Clinton.
But an internship with Gordon Thomas Honeywell in Tacoma set him on a new path. There he met Jack Connelly, a big shot at the firm who became Beauregard’s mentor.
He said he admired the way Connelly stood up for the little guy — like Puyallup public-school students claiming racial discrimination — and won millions doing it.
“We kind of hit it off,” Connelly remembered. “He likes a lot of freedom in doing his cases and I like to give a lot of freedom.”
After law school, Beauregard returned to the firm. In 2006, when tensions at the firm sent some lawyers scattering, he and Connelly started their own firm.
“I don’t share his views on everything,” Beauregard said, seemingly an oblique reference to anti-LGBTQ accusations that have largely focused on Connelly.
Connelly and his wife donated $25,000 apiece to last year’s “Just Want Privacy” campaign, which unsuccessfully floated an initiative to try to limit transgender access to bathrooms and other public facilities.
In an interview, Connelly, a onetime Democratic legislative candidate, said he supported the initiative out of concern for his 9-year-old daughter’s safety. He also said his Catholic faith leads him to prefer traditional marriage. He insists those views do not make him anti-gay, saying he opposes discrimination.
Regardless, Connelly said, he has had nothing to do with the Murray case.
Beauregard said he supports gay rights, and was initially conflicted about taking Heckard’s case. “Sexuality has been so complicated for people,” the lawyer said, especially during the 1980s, when Heckard said he was abused. “If my client had been a little bit older…”
Beauregard said he was convinced by hearing Heckard speak about the pain he went through.
Still, Beauregard defended Connelly’s right to his opinions, and scoffed at the notion that they affect the firm’s work. Its eight attorneys “don’t sit around talking about, ‘where do we stand on gay rights?’ ” he said. “This is a law firm. We’re busy.”
Murray, he added, is “having delusions of grandeur if he thinks we’re trying to take him down.” But they could, he boasted. “We could swamp this guy as far as resources.”
“Gavel to gavel coverage”
The firm’s pugilistic inclinations, however, seem beyond argument. In the lawsuit involving the Seattle Police Department, Beauregard said, “our theory of the case was that the chief of police is an irresponsible manager who just thinks about herself.”
“The jury agreed with us,” he said, noting the $2.8 million judgment won by two officers who alleged O’Toole retaliated against them in an overtime-pay dispute.
The city has appealed, asserting Beauregard engaged in misconduct, in part by using “irrelevant, unsupported and flatly false personal attacks” that, among other things, portrayed O’Toole, a former Boston police commissioner, as an outsider and opportunist.
Beauregard speaks of O’Toole as a poor chief, even as a federal monitor and city leaders credit her with turning around a Police Department that was under a court order to address excessive force when she arrived in 2014.
In the Hansen case, Beauregard pitched reporters a “sex abuse cover up story,” then sent those emails to opposing counsel.
“If we have a trial,” Beauregard told his adversaries, atop one forwarded email, “I would expect gavel to gavel coverage.”
In legal filings, Hansen’s attorneys portrayed the overtures to the press as a transparent attempt to coerce the TV star into settling.
Beauregard said he was striking back against what he saw as an improper effort to keep Hansen’s name out of the courtroom.
Opposing counsel underestimate Beauregard at their peril, said good friend and fellow lawyer Noah Davis. They’ll offer maybe a $100,000 settlement. “He turns it into $10 million at trial,” Davis said. “He’s such a good lawyer, it’s ridiculous.”
Recent judgments include $16.7 million in a medical-malpractice case involving a pregnant Puyallup woman who died during the swine-flu epidemic, and $14 million in a lawsuit against the state Department of Social and Health Services over children placed in an abusive home.
Chris Kerley, opposing counsel in settlements arising from an Oak Harbor swim coach’s molestation of girls, said he found Beauregard to be ethical and respectful.
Beauregard was “certainly self-assured,” he added.
Heckard first told his story to Des Moines lawyer Lawand Anderson, who took it to Beauregard. “I wanted to make sure Mr. Heckard was represented with the best he could have,” she said.
Fan of Grisham and Churchill
Beauregard, a fan of novelist/lawyer John Grisham, says he likes to write narratives with “a little bit of punch.” And so he packed his complaint full of startling details about the sex Murray supposedly had with a then-15-year-old — “anal of course,” according to the court document.
Co-counsel Julie Kays, a former King County prosecutor of sexual assaults and co-counsel on the case, called the complaint “a stroke of brilliance.”
Disturbing as they are, the details are what people judging such accusations want to know, she said. “They put flesh on the bones.”
The mayor’s lawyers cast a harsher light on Beauregard’s filings. While the lawyers don’t mention the complaint specifically, they refer to “statements clearly directed to the press.” Beauregard even drops sniping letters to Sulkin into the court file — done in bad faith, according to the mayor’s lawyers, in the hopes that the press would discover them.
Such behavior, they argue, makes an end-run around rules of professional conduct that seek to prevent lawyers from trying their cases in the press and limit the statements they can make outside the judicial process.
The rules make an exception for comments about information in the public interest. And Beauregard, quoting Winston Churchill, roots his justification in free speech and the virtues of an open court system.
Several legal ethics experts disagree. “Clearly where the line is, he seems to be over it,” said Robert Aronson, a University of Washington emeritus law professor.
“There does not appear to be a legitimate reason” to “proceed in this manner, other than to taint Murray in the public’s eyes,” Aronson said in a follow-up email.
Beauregard is charging ahead anyway, declaring himself to be “speaking truth to power.”
He writes on Facebook about “our pedophile mayor.” He takes information he gets and runs with it.
When he got a tip about a police call last year over a supposedly “shirtless man” at the mayor’s house last year, he subpoenaed Murray’s operations manager, demanding she explain what she knows.
The mayor’s personal spokesman issued a statement from guests at Murray’s home that night telling a different story.
Still, Beauregard alleges a cover up involving O’Toole. (She declines to comment.)
Why would Beauregard put forward a tip — from someone whose identity he says he doesn’t know — about a call that bears no obvious relation to the alleged sex abuse decades ago?
He cited the possibility of a “similar cover-up narrative,” but said everything would be explained at trial, not now.
“This won’t be the last embarrassing thing we’re going to explore about the mayor,” he warned.