A judge who killed himself in a deserted courthouse hallway after he learned details were being published about his alleged sexual misconduct felt hounded by the press and unable to bear it anymore, a friend says.
King County Superior Court Judge Gary M. Little was found dead Thursday night of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, officials said.In the past six years, Little had been officially criticized or disciplined over improper contacts with juvenile defendants.
But rumors persisted of more serious sexual misconduct, leading a political challenger to raise those contacts as a campaign issue this year, and reporters from several news organizations to pursue reports Little had used his influence to coerce young men into sex.
Little, 49, a judge since 1980, announced last month that he would not seek a third term, acknowledging that "innuendo" about his work with teen-age boys was the reason. He said he planned to move to California and work outside law.
Little shot himself about an hour before the presses at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer started printing Friday's editions, which contained more than three full pages outlining allegations by five men - three of them former students of Little's - that he had coerced them into having sex with him.
The Seattle Times also reported Friday that it had been investigating Little and had interviewed more than 80 people.
"He said he felt he'd been hounded by the press and he just couldn't take it anymore," said attorney Camden Hall, a friend of Little.
The Post-Intelligencer had no immediate comment but planned a statement later, said Myrna Casad, assistant to Publisher Virgil Fassio.
A janitor found Little's body. A .38-caliber pistol and a note were found with the body, said Vaughn Van Zant, an investigator with the King County medical examiner.
The contents of the one-page note, addressed to no specific individual, were not divulged, but Van Zant said "it gives intent."
The judge was disciplined twice concerning improper contacts he had with youths who appeared before him in court.
The commission's action was not made public until 1985; Little had been re-elected in 1984.
Two of the men who told the Post-Intelligencer that Little had had sex with them when they were teen-agers said they gave long statements to the commission years later, one in 1981 and the other in 1985.
But the commission apparently never acted on those statements, because it had adopted a policy not to pursue allegations of misconduct that allegedly occurred before the commission was formed in December 1980.