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Ed Murray faces the legal quagmire of being a public figure

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, left, reads a statement to media and supporters, as his husband Michael Shiosaki, right, looks on, saying that he is dropping his re-election bid for a second term Tuesday, May 9, 2017, in Seattle. Last month a man filed a lawsuit claiming he was sexually abused by Murray in the 1980s when he was a teenager. Three others made similar allegations, and all were vehemently denied by Murray. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Though Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has decided not to run for a second term, he has vehemently denied the sex abuse allegations against him.

RELATED: Seattle Mayor has blunt response to latest abuse accusations

There are certainly strong implications that something may have happened in his past life, but, officially, there is no conviction. It is just a group of people making accusations.

The question now is: Does he have any rights in a case like this? This is all speculation on my part, but what concerns me about this is, according to what Murray has said publicly, yes. That he essentially temporarily adopted a young man, but I’ve never heard of the other men accusing me of sexual abuse.

If it turns out that he is correct and these accusations were all patched together by an attorney with a vendetta, does Murray have a path for recourse?

“He does, potentially,” former Attorney General Rob McKenna told me.

According to McKenna, Murray could counter-sue for defamation. However, because he is a public figure, he would have to go beyond claiming liable or slander and prove malice. That’s a higher standard than a private citizen in that a public figure must prove someone was aware of statements or claims they made were false or likely false.

The problem with that is it can get expensive.

“Litigation is expensive,” McKenna said. “Murray would spend a lot of money claiming defamation.”

Another question Murray would have to ask himself: Would he want to sue people that don’t seem to have much?

“Maybe he will do it anyway to further cement the idea that this was specifically targeting him,” McKenna said.

The bottom line here is that if Murray is innocent, then a pretty terrible injustice has been done here. But as McKenna says, that is the problem with being a public figure.

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