An Oregon judge earlier this month agreed to postpone the trial of prominent gay rights advocate and real estate developer Terry Bean after the teenager that authorities say Bean had sex with in 2013 when the youth was 15 has gone into hiding.
The alleged victim, who is now 17 and who stated through his lawyer that he wants the charges against Bean dismissed, fled from his home in San Diego in late July with assistance from his mother and has eluded efforts by police and prosecutors to find him, according to Lane County, Ore., prosecutor Scott Healy.
Bean, 66, and his former boyfriend, Kiah Lawson, 25, were indicted last November on two counts of third-degree sodomy, a felony, and one count of third-degree sexual abuse, a misdemeanor, in connection allegations that they had sex with the 15-year-old at a hotel in Eugene in September 2013.
Both men have pleaded not guilty. The Portland Oregonian has reported that Lawson’s lawyer disclosed to the media that Lawson and Bean met the 15-year-old through Grindr. The mobile phone app enables gay and bisexual men meet to arrange for sexual encounters.
In early July, attorneys representing Bean and the now 17-year-old youth informed the court that they had reached a civil agreement under Oregon law that allows them to petition the court to dismiss the criminal case against Bean. The law gives the judge presiding over the case the authority to accept or reject such a settlement request.
Although the terms of the agreement were presented to Lane County Circuit Court Judge Charles Zennache in a closed hearing and records of the agreement were sealed, most court observers believe the agreement includes a significant monetary payment from Bean to the 17-year-old.
But on July 16, Zennache denied the compromise proposal, prompting the 17-year-old and his mother to go into hiding. Knowing that they couldn’t benefit from the settlement agreement if the trial was held, the Oregonian and other media outlets reported that the 17-year-old and his mother made it clear to friends that their intent was to prevent the trial from happening and force the case against Bean to be dropped. Prosecutors could not obtain a conviction without the testimony by the alleged victim, who would be the lead witness against Bean.
In a court filing asking the judge to postpone Bean’s trial, which initially had been scheduled to begin on Aug. 11, prosecutor Healy said the 17-year-old and his mother stopped using their cell phones and credit cards in an effort to avoid being found.
A new trial date has been set for Sept. 1, but court observers say the outcome of the case remains in doubt as long as the 17-year-old continues to hide and eludes efforts by prosecutors to serve him with a subpoena to appear in court for the trial.
“A squad of detectives has searched unsuccessfully for the boy and his mother in Cottage Grove, Roseburg and Springfield, once missing the boy by a few hours,” the Oregonian reported Healy as saying.
Bean’s attorney, Derek Ashton, has asked the court to dismiss the case against Bean with prejudice, which would prevent Bean from being prosecuted again if the immediate charges against him are dismissed due to the absence of the star witness.
Bean has denied having sex with the then 15-year-old, saying the initial allegations of the sexual encounter were part of a scheme by Lawson to extort money from him following an acrimonious breakup of their relationship.
Bean’s lawyers have suggested that the 15-year-old initially appeared to be collaborating with Lawson to ensnare Bean in a months-long scheme to intimidate him into paying them money.
Developments surrounding the charges pending against Bean have prompted him to curtail his once active role as a Democratic Party fundraiser and prominent gay rights leader. He helped raise more than $500,000 for President Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012 and has traveled with Obama on Air Force One.
Bean announced shortly after his indictment in November that he would step down as a member of the board of the Human Rights Campaign, which he helped to found in the 1980s, while his legal problems were pending.