Attorneys for Spokane Mayor Jim West asked the public Thursday to give the mayor a chance to respond to accusations of sexual misconduct before making judgments about him.
Carl Oreskovich and Bill Etter said that they have been representing West for only two weeks, and that they and the mayor need time to answer allegations by two men that West sexually molested them when they were boys and West was a deputy sheriff and Boy Scout leader in the 1970s.
West has called the molestation allegations “flat lies.”
West has acknowledged having relationships with young men he met through visits to a Gay.com chat line, but has said he did not misuse the city e-mail system or use the Internet inappropriately while at City Hall.
“Anyone can have an accusation made against them of his character,” said Oreskovich during a press briefing Thursday afternoon at the Ridpath hotel.
“Anyone can have uncorroborated, unsubstantial accusations made against them. We would ask you, we would ask the public to give the mayor the opportunity to investigate and be able to come forward with his side of the story and not to rush to judgment about him,” Oreskovich said.
The two attorneys said West plans to hold a press conference late next week to answer questions about the scandal that erupted with a series of investigative stories in The Spokesman-Review starting May 5, and has since led to widespread calls for his resignation.
The newspaper in its investigation hired a computer expert to pose on the Web as a 17-year-old high school student about to turn 18. West offered the man favors and gifts such as tickets to sporting events and sports memorabilia. West also offered an internship in e-mail sent from his city e-mail address.
Oreskovich sought to discredit one of West’s accusers, Robert J. Galliher, who is a plaintiff in a negligence lawsuit against Spokane County. The suit stems from alleged sexual abuse Galliher suffered from David Hahn, a deputy sheriff who committed suicide in 1981.
Galliher in a deposition released Wednesday said West molested him at least four times in the late 1970s when West and Hahn were both sheriff’s deputies, scoutmasters of the same troop and close friends. Galliher said he didn’t make a claim against West because he was scared of him and he is “pretty influential.”
Galliher claims that he was visited by West in 2003 while he was an inmate at Geiger Corrections Center and that West told him to keep his mouth shut after a June 2003 story was published about Hahn’s suicide.
Oreskovich said that visitation records at Geiger do not show any visits by West during the period described by Galliher. As a result, Galliher cannot be believed, and his statements are contradicted by the facility’s own records, Oreskovich said.
Logs at Geiger do not necessarily show the names of all visitors, staff members told the newspaper earlier this spring.
However, West has acknowledged sending a message to Galliher at Geiger in 2003 after the mayor said he had received harassing phone calls from Galliher, and officials at Geiger confirm that the message was delivered. West was in the midst of a campaign for mayor at the time.
In addition, Oreskovich said West’s name never came up in investigations surrounding the incidents involving Hahn.
“At no point in time was there ever any mention of Jim West,” Oreskovich said. “Jim West’s name was never brought up, never came up.”
Oreskovich did not identify the source for his information about the Hahn investigation. Sheriff Mark Sterk has said records of the Hahn investigation were destroyed.
Oreskovich also said Thursday that accusations of molestation in the 1970s by a second man, Michael G. Grant Jr., are in question as well. Grant alleges he was sexually abused twice by West and twice by Hahn when he was 7 or 8, including once at Camp Cowles, the Boy Scout camp on Diamond Lake.
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