The city of Seattle will pay $150,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by Delvonn Heckard, one of five men this year to publicly accuse former Mayor Ed Murray of sexual abuse decades ago.
“With this settlement, the City takes an important step in putting this sad chapter behind us, limiting litigation expenses, and allowing Mr. Heckard to move forward with his life,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said in the city’s statement Saturday evening.
Murray agreed to the settlement, but in his own statement continued to deny the allegations: “The lawsuit was painful for me, my husband, my family, and my former staff because the allegations were untrue. I did not molest or have any sexual contact with the plaintiff.”
Murray will not pay any part of the settlement, but he is responsible for covering his own legal fees, Holmes said.
Murray resigned as mayor in September after five men had come forward to accuse him of molestation they say occurred decades ago when they were teens. He has rejected all of the accusations of abuse.
Newly elected Mayor Jenny Durkan, a former U.S. attorney, supported Holmes in arriving at the agreement, noting in the city’s statement Saturday that it “is the right thing to do and allows our City to begin to heal.”
“As someone who has represented victims of sexual assault, I know this has caused a lot of pain and trauma for Mr. Heckard as well as many survivors,” Durkan’s statement added.
Heckard initially sued the then-mayor in April, claiming Murray paid him for sex multiple times in the late 1980s, beginning when Heckard was a homeless 15-year-old drug addict hanging around Capitol Hill.
Murray responded with adamant denials and said in a statement at the time: “I can state categorically that I have never had a sexual relationship with this individual, Delvonn Heckard, of any kind or at any time.” Murray said he never paid for sex and never had sex with a minor.
Heckard withdrew that lawsuit in June, after Murray announced he would not seek a second term as mayor. Heckard filed another suit in October naming the city as a co-defendant. In that lawsuit, Heckard contended Murray had used his resources as a public official to defame him, specifically citing a June news conference held at City Hall in which Murray, flanked by city officials, claimed vindication hours after Heckard withdrew his first lawsuit.
Lincoln Beauregard, Heckard’s lead attorney, said Saturday that Heckard is relieved the case has been resolved, even though Murray admitted no wrongdoing under the settlement terms.
“My client is delighted to have some closure,” Beauregard said. “The situation with Murray is imperfect, but we think we did a lot of justice.”
Beauregard added that he and Heckard’s other lawyers, Lawand Anderson and Julie Kays, agreed to donate all $50,000 of their settlement proceeds to sexual-assault-recovery organizations. Heckard, who is rehabilitating from drug addiction, will receive the remaining $100,000, Beauregard said.
“This case was never about the money, we’ve said that from the beginning,” Beauregard said. “But I really believe that the settlement money will help Delvonn as he continues toward recovery.”
In an interview late Saturday, Holmes said the city’s legal analysis of the case showed that if the city had gone to trial, the case could have dragged on for months or years and proven far more costly.
“The cost of our potential litigation alone makes this settlement a bargain,” he said. “And our own independent outside legal analysis said it basically could go either way if it finally went to trial.”
Two other men, Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Anderson, told the Seattle Times last spring that Murray had sexually abused them as teenagers living in Portland in the early 1980s.
Simpson met Murray while growing up in a Portland group home for troubled children in the late 1970s. He tried to bring attention to his allegation in 2008, when Murray was in the Washington state Legislature, but his account was never publicly reported.
In July, newly released documents showed that an Oregon child-welfare investigator in 1984 had found Simpson’s allegations valid.
Another man, Lavon Jones, later came forward contending Murray also had paid him for sex as a teenager on at least two occasions in Seattle in the 1980s. Murray resigned hours after The Times published accusations from a fifth accuser, Joseph Dyer - Murray’s younger cousin. Dyer claimed Murray repeatedly molested him for about a year in the 1970s while Murray lived with his family in New York.
Heckard is the only one of the five accusers who has filed a lawsuit.
Murray, 62, a Democrat and civil-rights champion, appeared to be headed to easy re-election before Heckard’s lawsuit. He announced he wouldn’t run for re-election in May after disappointing polling results, then left office in September.