by Kevin Taylor & r & For a quarter-century, the man who is now Spokane's mayor has used positions of public trust -- as a sheriff's deputy, Boy Scout leader and powerful politician -- to develop sexual relationships with boys and young men."
This was the first sentence -- and a strong one -- published in the Spokesman-Review on May 5 detailing allegations of pedophilia and Internet trolling of gay Web sites against Spokane Mayor Jim West.
Where has this strong sentence gone? The crackling charges that the mayor abused young boys -- Robert Galliher and Michael Grant -- have all but vanished from the newspaper.
Until a recent story detailing the results of an investigation into a prison beating, the newspaper had not mentioned Galliher or Grant since July 31. And most of the stories that did mention them in June and July are what is known in the trade as "boilerplate" -- that is, a brief recital of previously reported material in an ongoing story.
Galliher and Grant have also been hard to find. Galliher, his Spokane attorney John Allison says, is "not in Spokane," and has not granted interviews with any other media. Grant is incarcerated in a north-central Washington county jail.
West says he is frustrated that his lawyers have been unable to question the men. "In America, you are entitled to face your accusers," he says.
Galliher and Grant each have said they were abused by a sheriff's deputy who introduced them to West, and that West also sexually molested them. West has denied that he ever abused young boys, calling the allegations "flat lies."
Spokesman-Review Editor Steven A. Smith stands by Grant and Galliher: "We believe those allegations are true, or we wouldn't have printed them in our newspaper," Smith says. "The recall isn't about anything related to Galliher and Grant. The recall is based on conduct the mayor has admitted to and acknowledged."
True enough, but the allegations of being molested by West when they were children made for a serious first-day headline. West has argued that is extremely difficult to disprove allegations from so far back in time.
Smith adds that as the recall has taken the community's attention, interest in the older allegations has waned. But he says the Review will continue to follow all pieces of the West story.
Galliher, his older brother and two other men are suing Spokane County, claiming that they were sexually abused by David Hahn in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Hahn was a sheriff's deputy and scout leader who committed suicide in 1981, shortly after coming under investigation on charges of molesting two boys. Hahn and West were friends, serving together as deputies until West left the force in 1978, and also leading a Boy Scout pack. West's association with Hahn puts him at the scene of some serious allegations.
After denying the allegations of abuse, West challenged the credibility of Galliher and Grant, saying both are felons. This angered victims of sexual abuse and their advocates, who note it is not uncommon for people molested as children to lead troubled adult lives.
Now West is challenging the timeline of the allegations, saying it's extremely unlikely he was even a cop when the abuse was alleged. West says he left the Sheriff's Department in May 1978; at that time, Grant was 4 years old and Galliher was 9.
According to transcripts of the interviews with Galliher and Grant, it's hard to pin down exactly when they are alleging the abuse took place. This is something that would be explored in some depth if this were a criminal case, which it is not.
Galliher claims that the third time he was molested by West, it was in his police car, which West says he only had access to until May 1978. Earlier, Galliher claimed the abuse he endured was when he was "in between the age of nine and 11 or 12." So the third allegation against West came at his earliest age listed. West says he was on the graveyard shift in those years, and he questions whether a 9-year-old, no matter how wild, would have been hanging around a bowling alley late into the night. He says the kids he recalls out late like that were more like 14.
Grant says he was abused by West more around the time he was 8 or 9 years old, nearer to 1982, when West had been out of the force for three years. Grant does not claim that he was ever in West's patrol car.
There are small inconsistencies, too; Grand and Galliher don't agree on how they first met. Galliher told the Review that he met Grant for the first time while in jail at Geiger in 2003. Grant told the Review, however, that that he knew Galliher as a kid growing up in the Valley. Grant did not grow up in the Valley but says he was out there a lot with his friends.
Both men say they have been threatened by West, which may fit a pattern.
"We did a case on that guy ... a threat, I believe," Det. Sgt. Paul Johnson of the Olympia Police Department says. After a records check, Johnson found that it was the notorious story in which West, while in the Legislature, had been investigated for leaving a voice mail threatening to kill a lobbyist.
Jennifer Polek, whose mother, Jan, ran against West in 1989, believes intimidation was a big part of the West campaign.
"He's a scary guy. My mother was rarely pulled over in her lifetime," Polek says. "During the campaign, she was pulled over so many times -- driving too fast, driving too slow. I don't think she ever got a ticket. One cop finally did say, 'Be careful -- you're on the list to be pulled over.' They were constantly harassing her."
Polek also recalls West coming to their campaign events and refusing to leave when asked.
"It was very uncomfortable. He has no check on his ego," Polek says.