Terry Bean and Kiah Lawson Photo courtesy Kiah Lawson
By Kate Willson and Nigel Jaquiss
Few people have worked harder for last month’s historic decision to allow same-sex couples to marry in Oregon than Portland real-estate developer Terry Bean.
Bean, 65, is one of the founders of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s leading gay-rights organization. He’s donated more than $1 million to the group and serves on its board. His name is prominently displayed on a glass wall at the organization’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.
His influence extends beyond gay rights. No Oregonian has raised more money for President Barack Obama. At a 2009 Human Rights Campaign dinner, Obama called Bean a “great friend and supporter.” The president in 2012 hosted Bean on Air Force One, and when Obama visits Oregon, Bean has had the honor of greeting him as the president gets off his plane.
But today, when he’d rather be celebrating the same-sex marriage victory, Bean is instead fighting to protect his reputation.
Bean’s attorney has told the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office that Bean is the victim of an extortion plot carried out against him by a former boyfriend, 24-year-old Kiah Lawson, a onetime cellphone salesman with a drug problem and a criminal record.
Bean says that last year he fell in love with Lawson. Bean paid him a $400-a-week allowance, put Lawson up in one of his homes and took him on international trips. Last fall, Bean brought Lawson to the White House and also introduced him to Obama.
Bean’s attorney, Kristen Winemiller, says Bean always acted in Lawson’s best interest. “Our client did nothing improper in his considerable attempts to support Lawson in making a better life for himself,” Winemiller says.
In January, Lawson says, he discovered that Bean had a hidden camera in the smoke detector above Bean’s bed in his West Hills home. Lawson used this information to seek money from Bean, alleging that the camera captured videos “of at least a half dozen individuals in a state of nudity engaged in intimate acts with you.” Lawson claims he is in more than one video.
Records reviewed by WW show Bean recently attempted to settle the matter for $40,000 in exchange for Lawson turning over the images and refraining from disclosing Bean’s “alleged illicit sexual activities.”
That deal appears to be off, and last week Bean’s attorney went to the DA, alleging Lawson was guilty of theft and extortion, in addition to being involved in a wider range of criminal activities. The case is under investigation by Portland police.
WW first contacted Bean a month ago about this story, and he has repeatedly declined to comment. Bean’s attorney has also hired a former Multnomah County prosecutor to represent six young men who know Bean. And Bean has engaged a veteran Washington, D.C., communications specialist from a firm with ties to Obama to manage the story.
Many of the facts are in dispute, and it’s unclear how often guests in Bean’s bedroom might have been caught on camera, or if Lawson’s efforts to extract money from him constitutes extortion.
But this much is sure: Bean has negotiated complex real estate deals, made himself indispensable to players at the highest level of politics, and played a role in the biggest civil-rights fight of our generation. Yet his legacy is on the line because of his association with a troubled young man he met on the dating app called Jack’d.
“Terry made the mistake of falling for the wrong man,” Winemiller says. “Since that mistake, Terry has been the victim of a ring of men who have broken into his homes, stolen money and personal property and tried to extort money from him by threatening his sterling public reputation.”
Bean grew up the scion of a powerful Portland family. His great-grandfather was an Oregon Supreme Court justice and later a federal judge. His grandfather, Ormond Bean, served 23 years as a Portland city commissioner. His accomplishments included the development of Delta Park. His father, Ormond Jr., ran a successful real-estate company.
Bean himself was raised in Lake Oswego. He attended the University of Oregon on a golf scholarship, and returned to Portland and went to work at his father’s firm, Bean Investment Real Estate. He invested in apartments and converted rentals, such as the 561-unit Portland Center Apartments and the Envoy at Southwest Vista Avenue and West Burnside Street, into condominiums.
His investors included San Francisco meat-packing heir James Hormel and wealthy Portlanders, including stockbroker Jerry Bidwell; Frank Dulcich, the CEO of Pacific Seafood; and Robert Philip, former CEO of Schnitzer Steel.
Bean hit hard times when a multimillion-dollar Las Vegas condo conversion deal went bust as the national real-estate market plummeted in 2008. His company is still operating, but with a lower profile.
He has been even more prominent in politics. In 1978, the city of Eugene passed an ordinance outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation, and Bean helped lead the unsuccessful fight against repeal of the ordinance. He’s been a major player at fundraisers and political events, often escorting former Gov. Barbara Roberts, who considers Bean one of her closest friends.
He’s given $24,000 to candidates seeking state and local office since 2006, including $4,500 to Secretary of State Kate Brown’s campaigns, and $2,100 to elect Sam Adams mayor of Portland in 2008. Bean has also given nearly $300,000 in federal races since 2000, according to disclosure reports.
In a 2007 video tribute to Bean—played at a Basic Rights Oregon event in his
honor—former Vice President Al Gore, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and former Gov. Roberts all paid tribute to him. Roberts talked about his tenacious battle for gay rights.
“He’s been willing to get in people’s faces about this issue for decades,” she said. “He’s stood toe to toe, eye to eye with presidents of the United States.”
In 2008, then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski named Aug. 23 “Terry Bean Equality Day,” in recognition of Bean’s tireless work on gay rights. He was co-best man at the 2012 wedding of former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
Bean’s fundraising prowess reached its peak in 2012, when he helped Obama win a second term. According to the watchdog group Public Citizen, Bean raised $500,000 for Obama’s re-election. Obama thanked him publicly at an event in Portland that year. When Obama left Portland after a fundraiser, Bean flew to Seattle with him on Air Force One.
Bean’s current troubles began when he started dating Kiah Lawson.
Lawson grew up in Junction City, where he graduated from high school in 2007, and soon found himself in trouble. A co-worker of his at the Hollister store in Eugene’s Valley River Center obtained an anti-stalking order against Lawson in 2007, after telling a judge Lawson had threatened him and tried to run him down with a car. In 2008, Lawson’s boyfriend at the time went to court and won a protective order, saying Lawson had a history of “criminal behavior and being vengeful,” according to court records.
Four years later, in November 2012, Lawson was accused of breaking down an apartment door and beating another boyfriend, spattering blood on the walls. Lawson later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault.
In January 2013, Lawson pleaded guilty to theft after stealing headphones and a PlayStation 3 console from the Hillsboro Best Buy. In August 2013, a Washington County judge issued a warrant for Lawson’s arrest after he failed to appear at an arraignment for driving with a suspended license.
That same month, court records show, Lawson and Bean began dating. Lawson told WW the two met through Jack’d, and that Bean offered to help him with court fines stemming from his criminal convictions, and encouraged him to stay off drugs and stop smoking. “I was impressed,” Lawson says of Bean. “There was a sense of hope around him. You know, the bling. I liked that he tried to help me, to encourage me.”
Bean, who drives a 2007 Bentley convertible and lives in a $1 million West Hills home, soon moved Lawson into a Hayden Island condo he also owns, court records show. Lawson says Bean took him to a birthday party for former Mayor Adams and lunches with Barbara Roberts, and Christmas caroling with Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini.
The two traveled widely, to Bean’s home in Palm Springs, Calif., to the Dominican Republic and to Europe, according to Lawson’s Facebook page and documents reviewed by WW.
They went to Washington, D.C., where in November 2013 Bean took Lawson on a private tour of the White House. They also attended a Democratic Party fundraiser that featured President Obama.
It’s unclear whether Lawson’s criminal record was an issue in connection with a Secret Service background check people meeting the president often undergo. Bean declined to answer questions about the security clearance.
Winemiller, Bean’s attorney, says Bean believes the “Secret Service process for determining who can and cannot participate in events with the president is unassailable, and Mr. Bean has never questioned that process, nor would he.”
Lawson was allowed into the Obama event and afterward shook hands with the president as Bean snapped a photo. Lawson says meeting the president was exciting, but that’s not his best memory. “The White House library was awesome,” Lawson says. “All those old books.”
Lawson and Bean’s romance had many of the trappings of a domestic relationship. Bean visited Lawson’s family in Junction City and took Lawson’s mother to a University of Oregon Ducks football game. Bean hosted Lawson’s family at his home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“I really liked the guy,” says Lawson’s mother, Nouanemany Privatsky, 49. “I thought he was nice, caring, considerate.”
The traditional trappings only went so far. Lawson claims that, as part of their relationship, Bean asked him to bring younger men to the West Hills house. He also says their relationship allowed them to have sex with other men, so long as the other approved.
On Jan. 3, Lawson says, he became suspicious that Bean had entertained a man whom they had met on a different dating site, Adam4Adam. He knew Bean had an extensive video surveillance system throughout the house; there were security cameras visible in places such as the kitchen, the foyer and hallways.
Lawson says he accessed the security system and thumbed through video images to see if he could spot the other man. There, he says, he discovered videos taken
in Bean’s bedroom. They included Lawson and Bean having sex, as well as video of at least six other men engaged in sex acts at various times.
He made screenshots and later confronted Bean about the recordings, some of which appeared to date back months.
It’s a misdemeanor in Oregon to knowingly video-record another person who is naked without his or her consent if the person being recorded has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Winemiller, Bean’s attorney, said the security system in Bean’s home was never used for any improper or illegal purpose. “No footage from that system is archived by Mr. Bean or used beyond the intended purpose of a security system,”
According to Lawson, however, Bean denied at first that there was a video camera in the bedroom. Bean then acknowledged he had installed a camera to protect himself against thefts, but that it hadn’t worked for years and that he
didn’t know how to activate it.
Lawson says they argued. The two tried to reconcile and traveled to Europe. In February, they broke up.
On Feb. 15, Bean went to his Hayden Island condo and demanded that Lawson move out. The two men argued and police were called. An officer noticed a mark on Bean’s forehead, and Bean denied that Lawson caused it. But in a restraining-order petition he filed subsequently, Bean claimed Lawson had hit him. (Bean and Lawson both sought restraining orders against each other in March. Lawson has withdrawn his; Bean’s is still in effect.)
Lawson found a lawyer and, brandishing the video images, asked Bean for money.
The lawyer that Lawson found, Jeff Dickey, says he has known Bean for 20 years. Dickey got his law license in 2009 and had worked briefly for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. The DA later refused to employ him full time, and Dickey won a settlement after claiming his civil rights had been violated. He has struggled—two judges have removed him from cases recently after he failed to appear at hearings. (Dickey tells WW his practice has suffered because of recent health issues.)
On Feb. 20, Dickey sent Bean a letter quoting Lawson saying Bean was “his lover, companion and best friend.” But Lawson, according to the letter obtained by WW, claimed his discovery of the video recordings had caused “emotional trauma, psychological damage and breach of trust.”
“After learning of the presence of cameras that took video of our most intimate moments—and captured images of other individuals in a state of nudity—I have had a difficult time trusting him,â Lawson is quoted in the letter.
In the letter, Dickey said Lawson possessed screenshots from some of the videos and was considering filing a civil lawsuit against Bean. Dickey also said Lawson was considering calling police, suggesting that the video recordings violated an Oregon law against invasion of personal privacy. His client, Dickey said, “has agreed to first try to reach a compromise and settlement to resolve his complaints.”
It’s unclear whether Lawson’s demand for money would qualify as extortion. In certain circumstances, under Oregon law, extortion can include demanding money from someone in exchange for not accusing a person of a crime, or
exposing an embarrassing or damaging secret. It may not be extortion, according to state law, if the person making the demand did so to “make good the wrong which was the subject of the threatened charge.”
“Lawyers can’t say things like, ‘I’m going to ruin you,'” says John Mansfield, a Portland lawyer who specializes in privacy issues. “But it’s permissible to ask for a settlement based on the evidence.”
On March 17, Winemiller wrote back to Dickey, accusing Lawson of stealing a Rolex watch, golf clubs and clothing from Bean. Winemiller also accused Lawson and a friend, Michael Lytle, of using Bean’s bank card to run up a bill of $18,000. (Lytle’s criminal record includes burglary, drug sales and identity theft.) Winemiller wrote that Lawson and his friends “are in league to extract a payout” from Bean.
Both Lawson and Lytle deny Winemiller’s allegations.
Last month, Lawson’s and Bean’s attorneys entered into mediation and emerged with an agreement. Under the deal, reviewed by WW, Lawson would get $40,000, including $12,500 for Dickey, Lawson’s attorney, and $9,500 toward drug treatment for Lawson. (Lawson was arrested April 20 at Sea-Tac Airport for possession of meth on the way back from a trip to Hawaii to visit friends. The King County, Wash., district attorney’s office says the case is under review.)
In exchange for the money, Lawson agreed to turn over all images he had from the videos. The agreement also said Lawson would be paid only if by May 8 there had been no media reports concerning the claims made by Lawson concerning “alleged illicit sexual acts” by Bean.
The agreement also required that an ex-boyfriend of Lawson’s, Denis Sieben, settle with Bean. Sieben, 19, tells WW he had sex with Lawson in Bean’s bed often during September. Sieben says Lawson has told him he appears in at least one video, but says he never saw any of the images. He also says he never consented to being recorded.
Bean and his attorney declined to discuss the settlement agreement.
Two weeks ago, Lawson turned his iPhone containing images from the videos over to Charles Faulk, a former electronic forensics expert with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who has been hired by Bean’s attorney. According to a recording of a conversation between them, Faulk told Lawson he had wiped the images off the iPhone so they could never be recovered. Faulk declined to comment for this story.
Nevertheless, Lawson says he has yet to receive any money from the settlement. Attorneys for Lawson and Bean accuse the other side of failing to hold up their end of the settlement agreement.
Over the past month, Bean has launched a three-part strategy to combat Lawson’s claims.
First, Bean hired Washington, D.C., public relations strategist Hilary Rosen. Rosen works for SKDKnickerbocker, a firm that includes Anita Dunn, Obama’s former communications director. Rosen is also a longtime friend of Bean’s and a former board member of the Human Rights Foundation. Second, Bean’s legal team enlisted Jim McIntyre, a former Multnomah County deputy district attorney, to represent six young men who know Bean. McIntyre declined to comment.
One of the men represented by McIntyre tells WW he had sexual contact with Bean in the bedroom of Bean’s West Hills home, and has told Bean’s attorney he was unaware of a video recording system. Bean’s attorney, Winemiller, has since offered to advise the man on a domestic-violence charge and to help him find an apartment. Winemiller says the man was in need of social services, and she offered to refer him to Central City Concern.
Finally, Bean started building a criminal case against Lawson and his friends. One man represented by McIntyre says Bean called him recently to see what he knew about Lawson.
Another man, Matt Steel, who also spent time at Bean’s house, says he told Bean he once heard Lawson and Lytle plotting to get money from Bean. Bean then asked him for “any videos, evidence, messages, any photos of them doing anything illegal,” Steel tells WW.
On May 21, Bean’s representatives visited the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. The DA’s office confirms that it has received a complaint from Bean’s attorney. The office has cited a conflict of interest because the
investigation involves Dickey, who once worked there. As a result, the case has been turned over to the Clackamas County District Attorney’s office.
“We are in the process of doing a full investigation in conjunction with the Portland Police Bureau,” Scott Healy, Clackamas County senior deputy district attorney, tells WW. “Our investigation has started relatively recently. All complaints will be fully investigated, but I cannot comment further than that.”
Bean’s attorney, Winemiller, declined to discuss the evidence she presented to prosecutors. “We are confident that investigators will uncover the full depth of what has been done to Mr. Bean,” she says.
Dickey, Lawson’s attorney, says talk of a criminal investigation is simply a smokescreen.
“Terry is creating a distraction over here so we don’t pay attention to the fact that there were victims who were surreptitiously videotaped,” Dickey says. “This is a tactic by Terry to create an alterative narrative.”
For Bean, it’s not certain what happens next. People close to him say he’s distraught about the case and the potential damage to his reputation.
“I have known Terry Bean for 30 years,” Barbara Roberts, the former Oregon governor, tells WW. “There is no finer or more trustworthy man in Oregon. He has helped so many people.”
“I am hopeful that law enforcement acts swiftly to put an end to this hateful charade and I feel terrible for Terry that this unfortunate incident has become public.”
On May 31, nearly 1,000 revelers turned up at Montgomery Park for a raucous victory celebration marking a federal judge’s overturning of Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Gay-rights pioneers, such as former Mayor Adams, raised their glasses to dozens of newly married gay couples.
In between music by the LoveBomb Go-Go Marching Band and DJ Zimmie, Gov. John Kitzhaber, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and other leaders who have fought for decades for gay rights recognized the groups and individuals who’d made equality possible in Oregon.
Amid all the names called out, one was missing.
Terry Bean wasn’t there.