SEATTLE – The city of Seattle has settled a lawsuit filed by a man whose sexual abuse claims effectively ended the political career of former Mayor Ed Murray.
City Attorney Pete Holmes announced late Saturday that the city will pay Delvonn Heckard $150,000 to resolve the lawsuit, which, along with accusations by others, led to Murray’s resignation in September.
The lawsuit claimed Murray raped and molested Heckard as a teen. It also blamed the city for enabling the Democrat to use his political office to slander Heckard and others for months as the mayor denied the allegations. The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sex abuse, but Heckard said he wants his name made public.
“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,” Holmes said in a statement.
Newly elected Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a former U.S. Attorney, said settling the suit will let the city 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,” she said.
Heckard’s lawyer, Lincoln Beauregard, said Sunday that his client appreciates and accepts the city’s offer. He says the case was never about money but the funds will help Heckard in his recovery.
Murray continues to deny the allegations and in a statement said the relief of putting the case behind him is bittersweet, “tempered by the painful experience we have all undergone.”
“The lawsuit was painful for me, my husband, my family and my former staff because the allegations were untrue,” Murray said. “I did not molest or have any sexual contact with the plaintiff. I was prepared to defend myself in court, as I have been doing at my own expense, but wholeheartedly agree with the city’s decision to pay $150,000 to avoid the cost and uncertainty of litigation.”
Murray had built his standing in the gay community and in Washington state politics through a decades-long push for bias protections, domestic partnerships and marriage equality. His departure brought an end to a 22-year career in public office, including 18 years as a state lawmaker.
He was the prime sponsor of Washington’s gay marriage law, spearheaded an effort to protect LGBTQ youth in public schools and led the state’s push to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Murray initially said the abuse claims were motivated by an anti-gay conspiracy aimed at derailing his political career.
Soon after Heckard first filed his lawsuit, two other men told the Seattle Times that Murray sexually abused them when they were teens in Portland, Oregon, in the 1980s.
Murray denied those claims, and then a fourth man came forward, claiming Murray paid him for sex when he was a teenager. The fifth accuser was Murray’s younger cousin, who claimed Murray molested him in the 1970s.
Murray was criticized for his response to the claims and more and more people called for his resignation.
He said Saturday that he was sorry for the way he handled the claims.
“I recognize that victims of sexual abuse have a right to be heard and I apologize if, in my effort to defend myself, I made any statements that were interpreted as an attempt to `blame the victim’ or were in any way insensitive to victims of sexual abuse and assault,” he said in his statement.
Beauregard said the lawyers who filed the lawsuit, including Julie Keys and Lawand Anderson, will donate their attorneys’ fees to sexual assault recovery organizations. Beauregard Keys will donate $25,000 to the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. Anderson will give $12,500 to the Harborview Sexual Assault and Trauma Unit and another $12,500 to the Silent Task Force.