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Judge drops case against prominent gay rights activist

EUGENE  — A judge on Tuesday dismissed sex-crimes charges against prominent gay rights activist Terry Bean after the alleged teenage victim refused to testify against him.

Lane County Circuit Court Judge Jay McAlpin gave prosecutors the option to refile charges if circumstances change, The Register-Guard reported.

Breaking his silence about the charges, Bean released a statement saying he's relieved that they've been dropped, but "this nightmare never should have even begun."

"I take some measure of comfort that the world now knows what I have always known — that I was falsely accused and completely innocent of every accusation that was made," Bean's statement said.

Bean, 66, is a Portland real-estate developer who co-founded two national gay rights groups and is a large donor to Democratic candidates. Prosecutors alleged that Bean and his then-boyfriend, Kiah Lawson, met a 15-year-old boy for sex in a Eugene hotel room in 2013. The charges against Lawson, 25, also were dropped.

Bean's lawyer, Derek Ashton, said Bean was not in the hotel room with the boy, and said a witness would support the claim, the Oregonian reported.

Prosecutor Erik Hasselman said Bean rented the room and witnesses put him there during the alleged sexual encounter.  Hasselman said the boy never wavered in his description of a three-way sexual encounter with Bean and Lawson.

"The prospect of testifying about very intimate details of a one-night relationship that he had with these men in front of a group of strangers, in front of the media ... was extremely detrimental to his mental health," Hasselman said.

Bean and the boy proposed a civil compromise, an option under Oregon law that allows the case to be resolved without a criminal conviction. A judge rejected their proposal. Prosecutors said the deal involved Bean paying the boy more than $200,000, the Register-Guard reported.

The boy's attorney, Lori Deveny, said any suggestion that the boy didn't want to testify because of money is false.

"My client is relieved this is finally over," Deveny said in a statement. "He did not seek out this prosecution and made his unwillingness to testify known at every step in the process."

Bean maintains that he was the victim of an extortion plot cooked up by Lawson.

"I look forward to being able to tell the story of this conspiracy of lies, deceit, blackmail, malicious prosecution and homophobia now that this case has ended," Bean said.