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Mayor Ed Murray resigns after cousin accuses him of child sex abuse

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, left, walks past his husband, Michael Shiosaki, center, and his attorney, Bob Sulkin, to make a statement to media members Friday, April 7, 2017, in Seattle.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, left, walks past his husband, Michael Shiosaki, center, and his attorney, Bob Sulkin, to make a statement to media members Friday, April 7, 2017, in Seattle.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has announced his resignation, effective at 5 p.m. Wednesday, after his cousin became the fifth man to publicly accuse him of sexual abuse. 

In a statement, Murray said, “While the allegations against me are not true, it is important that my personal issues do not affect the ability of our city government to conduct the public’s business."

“It has also become clear to me that in light of the latest news reports, it is best for the city if I step aside. To the people of this special city and to my dedicated staff, I am sorry for this painful situation."

Under the city charter, Council President Bruce Harrell would become mayor in the interim.

He has five days to decide whether to accept the temporary position. To do so, Harrell would need to give up his City Council seat, according to council spokesman Dan Nolte.

In a statement Harrell says he'll talk it over with his family and make his announcement within that time frame.

Murray's resignation comes after a younger family member accused him of sexual abuse in the 1970s. 

The Seattle Times reported Tuesday that Joseph Dyer, 54, accused Murray of repeatedly molesting him when he was a young teenager. 

Dyer is the fifth man to accuse the mayor of such abuse. 

"This has been a tragic five months for many of us in our city," Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said in a posted statement on Facebook. "In light of the many charges made, including the recent one involving a family relation, the mayor’s decision to resign today was the right action to take."

Until Tuesday, Bagshaw had repeatedly defended Murray. “I want you to know I have faith in this mayor,” she said after the first three accusers came forth. “As a former lawyer, a former prosecuting attorney, I have faith that truth and fairness will win out.”

Councilmember Kshama Sawant alsoreleased a statement in which she said she was "understandably relieved" at the mayor's resignation. Sawant was the first council member to speak out about the allegations. 

Councilmember Tim Burgess said the latest allegation was a tipping point for him.

"It's been painful. It's difficult when someone you respect and admire is subject to these accusations. It's been particularly difficult for me because I am also a survivor of sexual abuse. It happened when I was young, but you never forget that," he said to KUOW.

Mary Dispenza of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said her heart sank when she heard that another man claimed to have been abused by Murray as a youth.

"The joy that is there is on behalf of survivors who are validated. Congratulations to the brave survivors who have found their voice and are speaking out,” she said.

Danni Askini with the Gender Justice League encouraged young people experiencing abuse to come forward and tell adults in their lives about it until somebody believes them and takes action.

“There are adults who are willing to stand up to even some of the most powerful people in office in our state to say enough is enough,” Askini said.

Louise Chernin with the Greater Seattle Business Association, the region’s LGBT chamber of commerce, declined to comment except to say, “This has been a hard time for our community.”

Murray has repeatedly denied allegations of sexual abuse. He has said in the past that accusations from four men were part of a right-wing political agenda to take him down. According to the Times, Murray said the latest accusation is false and is likely because of a family rift. 

Dyer says Murray forced him into sex while they shared a bedroom in Dyer's childhood home, according to the Times. Dyer says he was 13 years old at the time. Murray lived with Dyer's family in New York after his mother passed away. 

Dyer has provided a signed declaration to a Seattle lawyer representing Delvonn Heckard, the man who sued Murray earlier this year for repeatedly raping him in the 1980s. The lawsuit has since been withdrawn but Heckard has filed a claim for damages against the city of Seattle.

According to the declaration, published by the Times, Dyer was prompted to come forward after seeing a press conference in which Murray denied accusations made by Heckard and others.

The statement reads:

"I am offering this declaration to rebut Murray's claims that he never molested a child and/or the allegations against him were concocted as some sort of right-wing conspiracy. I do not know any of the other victims mentioned in this statement, and I am not part of any conspiracy. In fact, I am related to Murray. I am Murray's cousin."

Here are the men who say Murray abused them when they were teens:

Joseph Dyer: Murray’s cousin's son. He claims the abuse happened over the course of a year in the 1970s.

Delvonn Heckard: He filed a lawsuit accusing Murray of paying him for sex when he was 15 in the 1980s. He withdrew the lawsuit in June, then filed a claim for millions against the city of Seattle. He lives in Kent.

Jeff Simpson:He was in group home for children in the 1980s and says Murray groomed him there, then raped him throughout his teens, from 13 to 17. He attempted unsuccessfully to sue Murray in 2007. He is now married and lives in the Portland area.

Lloyd Anderson: He grew up in the same children’s home with Simpson. He also alleges that Murray paid him for sex. He is now married and lives in Florida.

Maurice Jones: He says Heckard introduced him to Murray.

Read what people are saying about the Mayor's resignation on Twitter: 

Reactions: Murray resigns - Curated tweets by KUOW

Gil Aegerter, Paige Browning and John Ryan contributed to this reporting.

Year started with KUOW: 2015