The Honorable Gary M. Little shoots himself just hours before the Seattle Post-Intelligencer releases an article accusing him of abusing his power by sexually exploiting juvenile defendants who appeared before him. The front-page article also suggested that he had exploited his teenage students as a teacher in the 1960s and 1970s. The scandal raised questions about the judicial system, because Little had been investigated and disciplined, but the investigations had been kept a secret.
In 1981, Little’s first year as a judge, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer received a tip about Little’s unusual relations with juvenile defendants. When the reporter investigated the matter, he found that Little, who was working as a volunteer counselor in juvenile court at the time, had been charged with third-degree assault in 1964. He was accused of assaulting a 16-year-old defendant in his apartment, but the charges had been dismissed. The paper never published the story, but it sparked an investigation by deputies working for King County prosecuting attorney Norm Maleng.
Reportedly, Little had visited three male juvenile defendants in detention without their attorneys present. One boy spent the night at the judge’s house, and another had spent time with him at his vacation home. Little never denied any of the accusations of his contact with the juveniles outside of the court but claimed that he was merely trying to help them. No evidence of sexual contact ever surfaced, but one prosecutor noted that all of the young defendants were handsome, blond, and male, and that there was strong evidence suggesting that the youths who had spent the night with Judge Little had received reduced sentences. The investigators submitted a 107-page complaint with the Judicial Conduct Commission, which dismissed the case and ordered that the information remain confidential.
Eventually, in 1985, Judge Little was quietly removed from presiding over juvenile cases. Also that year, the first public mention of the subject was published in the Seattle Times. However, the reporter who wrote the article was soon pulled off the case, despite new evidence that came forth after its publication. The issue was once again swept under the rug, where it remained until 1988, when two reporters from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer resumed the investigation. Soon after these reporters obtained affidavits by five former students claiming that Little had used his position as a teacher to extract sexual favors from them, Little announced that he would not run for re-election.
On the night of August 18, 1988, Gary Little was found lying in a pool of blood outside his chambers—three floors below the jail cell where his father, Sterling Little, hanged himself in August 1947 after being arrested in a burglary investigation.