Jeff Simpson, once a foster son of Ed Murray and the first to have accused the former mayor of child sexual abuse, is suing Murray and the city of Seattle claiming defamation and slander.
The lawsuit filed Friday morning said Murray abused his position of power to sway public opinion against his accusers, including Simpson, and paint them as homophobic. Simpson's attorney, Cheryl Snow, wrote that the "political elite, in effect, enablers" at the city backed Murray without making any effort to investigate the claims.
"Instead, they recklessly threw their support behind Murray and defended him in the media," she wrote. "And they complicity stood by as Mayor Murray used the power of his public office to repeatedly defame, shame, and intimidate his accusers."
Simpson was one of two men who originally accused Murray, back then a state legislator, of sexual abuse in 2008. Simpson had reached out to media organizations back then and planned to file a lawsuit, but his lawyer dropped the case reportedly due to a concern over the statute of limitations. His case was then buried.
Another accuser, Delvonn Heckard, sued Murray on grounds of child sexual abuse in April 2017, and brought older similar accusations to light.
While Murray still wasn't forced to resign until September 2017—after a fifth accuser, his cousin, came forward—Simpson's case did become key to shifting perceptions over the allegations against Murray.
In July 2017, The Seattle Times reported that a Child Protective Services case worker in 1984 found Simpson's accusations valid, which barred Murray from ever becoming a foster parent again. The new revelation led council member Lorena Gonzalez to call for the mayor's resignation.
The complaint brings in more details to the case back then, saying that Simpson—even before filing a complaint with CPS—had told his best friend and friend's mother that Murray was having sex with him. A detective during this investigation said Murray had been calling Simpson's group home and demanded to speak with him. When the group homed denied Murray contact with Simpson, the lawsuit said, Murray threatened to sue.
According to the lawsuit, Simpson met Murray as a 12-year-old orphan living in Portland, when Murray volunteered at the Parry Center for Children as a child care worker. The complaint alleged the sexual abuse began after Murray applied to be a "weekend visiting resource" for Simpson, and Simpson started visiting his home.
Snow wrote that Murray applied to be Simpson's foster parent in November 1982 and, when asked about his sexual preference on the application, described himself as heterosexual. He reportedly described involvement with children as a social worker for the Catholic Church dioceses in both the U.S. and Ireland.
The complaint pointed to Murray's public statements and op-ed published in The Stranger purporting that the accusations were politically motivated and stemmed from an anti-gay agenda. Other public statements, made by council members Sally Bagshaw and Bruce Harrell, were used to claim a "reckless disregard for the truth from city officials that could lead to punitive damages, Snow wrote.
The complaint also uses The Seattle Times's reporting on text messages from council member Sally Bagshaw that showed efforts to bolster support for Murray and outweigh Gonzalez's call for his resignation.
In arguing that Murray's actions violated city law, the complaint points to a Seattle Municipal Code provision that prohibits using an official position for a purpose "primarily for the private benefit of the covered individual."
"Sex abuse is, in part, about a differential of power," the complaint stated. "The act of slandering and defaming a victim of sex abuse is a form of re-victimization that can be more harmful than the underlying violation."
The city settled Heckard's lawsuit against Murray in December and paid Heckard, who since died of an overdose, $150,000.
City attorney's office spokesperson Dan Nolte said the office will review the complaint and consider potential next steps.