Editor’s note: This article was updated to include a quote from HRC’s Fred Sainz.
Terry Bean (left) and his ex-boyfriend Kiah Lawson in last year’s Christmas card photo. Photo courtesy Lawson.
No individual in Oregon raised more money for President Obama’s election than Terrence “Terry” Bean, a Democratic Party bigwig and gay rights champion. Obama even thanked Bean in a speech soon after. But now Bean, a 66-year-old real estate developer who is a founder of the Human Rights Campaign, has been arrested on sex crimes charges in Lane County, Ore., according to the Portland Tribune.
The arrest centers around a 15-year-old boy he allegedly had sex with in 2013, and police say that charges will include two felony charges of third-degree sodomy and one count of third-degree sex abuse. Bean’s ex-boyfriend Kiah Lawson, 25, was also arrested. According to Maxine Bernstein of The Oregonian, “Portland police tracked down the 15-year-old boy whose testimony helped lead to the sex abuse indictment against prominent Democrat Terrence P. Bean and his former boyfriend, Kiah L. Lawson, after Lawson gave police the teen’s phone number, according to Lawson’s former lawyer.”
Police allege that Lawson and Bean set up the encounter with the teen through the hookup app Grindr, and having sex with him at a hotel in Eugene, Ore. Bernstein reports that Jeffrey Dickey, Lawson’s former attorney, said, “The surprising thing to me is Kiah was indicted in this case because it was Kiah who helped authorities find this kid. If someone is going to cooperate and be helpful for the police there should be some kind of reward for that. It could have a chilling effect on others coming forward.”
Kristen Winemiller, Bean’s attorney, issued a statement saying Bean was actually a victim of extortion and he had been cooperating with police on the matter. She wrote: “Terry Bean is a highly respected community leader who has devoted his life to bettering our community. Over the course of several months in 2013-14, Terry was the victim of an extortion ring led by several men known to law enforcement. This current arrest is connected to the ongoing investigation of that case in which Mr. Bean has fully cooperated. No allegations against Terry Bean should be taken at face value. We look forward to the opportunity to clear his name.”
In addition to co-founding HRC, Bean also helped found the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, is a member at-large of the Democratic National Committee, and has raised money for Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Obama, and several other prominent Democrats.
Local LGBT leaders and gossip watchers have followed the Bean-Lawson breakup and aftermath for months. Dickey told Bernstein that the relationship faltered after Lawson discovered Bean had a hidden camera in the bedroom of his home and was “surreptitiously videotaping his sexual encounters with Lawson and a handful of other men.” The two men got restraining orders against each other, Bean attempted to evict Lawson from a condo he owned (public records report that Bean set Lawson up in a condo soon after they met and paid him $400 a week). Lawson traveled extensively with Bean (including to meet President Obama at the White House).
Bean’s lawyer denies the claims, saying the cameras were simply for security, and he went to police and the local district attorney accusing Lawson of trying to extort $40,000 from Bean in exchange for returning the images Lawson took from Bean’s iPad. Winemiller told Willamette Week, “We went to the police bureau because Lawson and his associates are dangerous men who were, and almost certainly still are, preying on gay men of all ages and walks of life.”
Lawyers for the 15-year-old at the center of this case filed a motion in Eugene for a protective order of his identity, which was granted, according to KOIN. Lori Deveny, the teen’s attorney, told KOIN, “He’s been traumatized and he’ll be living with that trauma. It’s important that the two adults involved he held to account for that. Something like this can follow a victim for their life. As we go to electronic court records, everything becomes searchable.”
KOIN reported that “Lawson was also ordered not to use the name of the alleged victim in any future postings on social media, and Lawson agreed.”
Bean is out on bail; Lawson is being held on bail. But their supporters are weighing in online already.
Bean’s supporters have told others to “heed the advice of his lawyer” to learn the facts of the case and remember that Bean is entitled to the presumption of innocence and a vigorous defense. Many LGBT and DNC leaders say they don’t believe the accusations against the man who helped found two of the country’s most powerful LGBT political organizations.
HRC,’s vice president of communications, Fred Sainz told The Advocate this morning, “Terry Bean has taken a voluntary leave of absence from the HRC board until his issues are resolved. Bean is just one of 80 board members, none of whom have daily oversight or responsibility for any of our programs. Every day HRC does tremendous work to make America a more just and equal nation. This week alone, we released the 2015 Corporate Equality Index and fought the so-called National Organization for Marriage. That work is vital and is bigger than any one individual.”
Lawson’s mother, Tim Nouanemany, was interviewed on KOIN 6 News, telling reporters that her son never had contact with the teen, that Bean alone arranged the encounter, and that Lawson is also a victim, a “pawn” used to “get young kids.” Nouanemany said Bean used Lawson to “groom” other young gay men, and that “Bean gave her son alcohol and Viagra as part of the grooming process to entice the teen.”
And antigay activist Matt Barber used the arrest to link to a misquoted study on gay men and pedophilia, sending out early morning tweets, letters, and an op-ed to media that hysterically argued, “Whether it’s boy-raping ‘gay’ priests, or boy-raping ‘gay’ activists, the problem is systemic. Homosexual predators are targeting our boys.”