Gay rights leader, real estate developer and longtime Democratic Party contributor Terry Bean of Oregon pleaded not guilty on Dec. 3 to charges that he allegedly had sex with a 15-year-old male at a Eugene hotel in September 2013.
Bean’s attorney, Kristen Winemiller, said Bean “absolutely did not have sex with a minor” and reiterated earlier assertions she has made to the media that Bean, 66, is the victim of an “extortion ring” organized by his former boyfriend and several others.
The unfolding saga of Bean’s arrest and earlier public reports that his then-boyfriend, Kiah Lawson, 25, accused him of secretly videotaping the two having sex in Bean’s bedroom at his Portland home – something Bean vehemently denies – have created unease among Bean’s longtime gay rights and political associates.
Bean announced he has withdrawn from his position as a member of the board of the Human Rights Campaign, which he helped found in the 1980s, while his legal problems are pending.
Anti-gay groups were quick to point out that Bean raised $500,000 for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and was invited by Obama to ride with the president on Air Force One during one of Obama’s visits to Oregon that year.
Last year, Bean arranged for a picture to be taken of Lawson posing with Obama when the two visited the White House.
“Terry Bean is a principled and esteemed citizen of this state who is eager to share the truth with his many supporters and the public,” Winemiller said in a Dec. 3 statement. “He has been a victim of a series of crimes perpetrated by a group of men that include his so-called ex-partner and co-defendant Kiah Lawson,” she said, adding that she looks forward to “clearing his name.”
Bean’s plea of not guilty came after he and Lawson were each indicted Nov. 18 by a Lane County Circuit Court grand jury in Eugene on two counts of third-degree sodomy and one count of third-degree sexual abuse.
The charges stem from allegations by prosecutors that both men allegedly had sex with the 15-year-old in a hotel room on Sept. 27, 2013 that Bean, a Portland resident, rented while he and Lawson were visiting Eugene.
The Portland Oregonian reported Bean was arrested by Portland police on Nov. 19 and was released after posting a $5,000 bond pending his appearance in court in Eugene on Dec. 3 for an arraignment, where he pleaded not guilty.
The Oregonian reported that Lawson was arrested Nov. 20 and was being held in jail in Eugene after he was unable to post bond. He also pleaded not guilty.
According to the Oregonian, an attorney who had been representing Lawson earlier this year on matters related to a tumultuous breakup between Lawson and Bean in February said it was Lawson who put police in touch with the 15-year-old, prompting police to open an investigation that led to the arrests.
The newspaper and other Oregon news outlets have reported that the attorney, Jeff Dickey, revealed that Bean and Lawson met the 15-year-old through the social network Grindr. The mobile phone app is well known as a place where gay and bisexual men meet to arrange for sexual encounters.
Dickey told the Oregonian he was surprised that police charged Lawson in the case, saying it was Lawson who brought the matter to the attention of police and he should have been given immunity from prosecution.
Winemiller, Bean’s lawyer, has suggested that the 15-year-old appeared to be collaborating with Lawson to ensnare Bean in a months-long scheme to intimidate him into paying them money.
Media reports have pointed to Lawson’s past brushes with the law, including arrests for assault and theft. In one case in 2012 Lawson pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault after being accused of breaking down an apartment door and beating a former boyfriend. In 2007, a co-worker at a Hollister store in Eugene obtained an anti-stalking order against him, telling a judge that Lawson threatened to run him over with a car.
In 2008, Lawson’s then boyfriend obtained a protective court order against him, claiming Lawson had a history of “criminal behavior and being vengeful,” according to the Portland newspaper Willamette Week.
Willamette Week reported Lawson’s brushes with the law in a long June 4, 2014 article about the stormy relationship between him and Bean that ended, according to the newspaper, after Lawson reportedly discovered that Bean had been secretly recording their sexual acts and sexual relations between Bean and other men with a hidden video camera in Bean’s bedroom
The weekly newspaper reported that in June attorney Dickey said he was helping Lawson negotiate a “settlement” with Bean in which Bean would pay as much as $40,000 in damages to Lawson. In a letter that Dickey prepared for Lawson, Lawson said the payment was compensation for “emotional trauma, psychological damage and breach of trust” that Lawson suffered after allegedly discovering the video recordings of him having sex with Bean and of Bean allegedly having sex with other men, Willamette Week reported.
The newspaper and other news media outlets have reported Bean as saying the video camera was part of a security system in his house and was not used to capture intimate relations in his bed.
Lawson’s former lawyer, Dickey, told the Oregonian Lawson took screen shots of some of the video images and presented them to him. He said the videos reportedly were of Bean having sex with Lawson and a “handful of other men,” the newspaper reported.
Neither Lawson nor his current lawyer could immediately be reached for comment. Lawson’s mother, Tim Nouanemany, told KOIN 6 TV News in Oregon that it was Bean who arranged the encounter with the 15-year-old and that her son never had contact with the teenager.
But the indictment says Lawson, among other things, “did unlawfully and knowingly engage in deviate sexual intercourse” with the 15-year-old “contrary to statute and against the peace and dignity of the State of Oregon.”