Virginia Republicans plan hearings into allegations against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax




Richmond, Va. • Republicans will invite two women who’ve accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, D, of sexual assault to publicly testify sooner than lawmakers, no matter Democrats’ objections that it’d flip into a “political, partisan show.”

The switch bought right here sooner or later after House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, criticized Democrats for resisting his efforts to launch a bipartisan investigation into the accusations against Fairfax.

Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, rose on the House floor shortly after noon on Friday and said the physique had “a duty to investigate.” He said the House Courts of Justice Committee will schedule a listening to nevertheless did not current a date. He said Fairfax might be invited to testify, along with the 2 women.

Fairfax has emphatically denied the allegations, saying the encounters have been consensual. His spokeswoman did not reply to a request for comment.

Democratic lawmakers slammed the notion of public hearings held by their GOP colleagues, considerably in an election 12 months.

“Due process is absolutely needed,” Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg. “It should be by a law enforcement agency and not by individuals who will be on the ballot in November.”

“I question whether or not this body can truly deliver the justice that is sought,” she said and added that in her opinion, “the answer is no.”

“The seriousness of the allegations that have been made public in this case should not be turned into a political game,” Aird said.

If Fairfax is charged with a legal offense by laws enforcement and situated accountable “the women, the black women on this side of the aisle will be the first people to draft articles of impeachment,” Aird said.

But Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, disagreed with Aird.

Survivors of sexual violence should have the selection to report sexual violence nonetheless they actually really feel is biggest, he said. “When I was raped, I did not report it to law enforcement because I did not believe that was a way in which I would achieve justice,” he said.

Cox initially proposed a 10-person investigative committee — with 5 Republicans, 5 Democrats and restricted subpoena power – to look into claims by Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson that Fairfax sexually assaulted them years previously.

Both Tyson and Watson have requested the General Assembly for the prospect to publicly testify.

Nancy Erika Smith, an lawyer for Watson, said she “looks forward to testifying at this forum.”

“It is our understanding that the hearing will be public and televised and that Ms. Watson, Dr. Tyson and Lt. Governor Fairfax will all testify under oath and be subject to the same rules and requirements, including our right to present witnesses and corroborators,” Smith said in an announcement.

Bell said that two weeks had handed as a result of the women had made “very specific and detailed allegations that they had been sexually assaulted by Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax. Governor Fairfax has denied these allegations. They’re obviously — extraordinarily — extremely serious. We tried to work diligently with our colleagues across the aisle to create a bipartisan way to investigate. Proposed a special subcommittee that would have been five-five — five Republicans, five Democrats — to hear testimony, issue subpoenas, conduct the investigation. That was declined.”

On Thursday, House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, confirmed that she and totally different Democratic leaders had met with Cox nevertheless said they’ve been concerned that an investigative panel may impede doable authorized investigations.

“Nobody wants this to turn into a political, partisan show,” Filler-Corn said.

She moreover said she was cautious of agreeing to the formation of the committee with out additional particulars in writing. “We asked for the specifics: ‘What are you talking about? What would this look like? How would this be done?’ “

Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment, R-James City, said he could not comment because of if the House listening to turned out to be a precursor to impeachment proceedings, the Senate would operate the jury.

“I’m not going to opine one way or the other because we would be sitting as a jury — if the Senate made the determination to participate,” he said.

Under the state construction, articles of impeachment are initiated inside the House of Delegates after which decided inside the Senate.

Cox had initally proposed a specific subcommittee of the House Courts of Justice Committee, which could hear testimony from witnesses. He said the findings may kind the concept for impeachment, nevertheless he cautioned against calling the panel an “impeachment committee” because of that is probably not the consequence.

Republicans, who preserve a slim majority in every chambers of the legislature, would need bipartisan cooperation for any investigative effort, Cox said, for most of the people to consider the consequence.

But absent cooperation from Democrats, Cox said he would go forward with one different format.

Tyson has accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004 on the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Watson says Fairfax assaulted her in 2000, whereas they’ve been faculty college students at Duke University.

Fairfax has known as the allegations a smear advertising marketing campaign against him. Both women went public with their accusations at a second when Fairfax looked to be on the cusp of ascending to the governorship.

Democrats and Republicans alike have been calling on Gov. Ralph Northam, D, to step down after revelations of a racist image on his 1984 medical faculty yearbook internet web page and his admission that he darkened his cheeks with shoe polish that 12 months whereas dressed as Michael Jackson for a dance contest.

Fairfax would have develop to be governor if Northam had resigned, an selection the governor initially considered nevertheless then dismissed.

Democrats and Republicans have been additional restrained when Tyson stepped forward collectively along with her accusation, with most saying the lieutenant governor deserved due course of.

They moreover held their hearth when one different scandal unfolded: Attorney General Mark Herring, D, who had known as on Northam to resign, admitted that he had sporting blackface as a faculty pupil.

But after Watson stepped forward with the second accusation, Democratic Party leaders quickly known as for Fairfax to resign. He has said repeatedly that he’s not going to step down and wishes the FBI or others to research the accusations. The FBI has no jurisdiction over each case, as a result of the allegations do not embrace a federal crime.

In polls carried out as a result of the scandals broke, voters have been break up over whether or not or not Fairfax should resign.

The backwards and forwards between Cox and Filler-Corn over the try to create a panel led to dueling data conferences Thursday inside the Capitol.

Cox’s spokesman, Parker Slaybaugh, handed reporters copies of a joint assertion that he said Filler-Corn had requested Cox to sign last week.

“It is our view that it is impossible for the General Assembly to conduct a thorough and credible investigation and impeachment process that is fair to Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson and to the Lieutenant Governor, consistent with the Assembly’s constitutional duties, at this time,” the letter said.

Cox refused to sign, Slaybaugh said.

Filler-Corn, who stepped as a lot because the cameras immediately after Cox, acknowledged that the assertion had been drafted by Democrats nevertheless insisted that it did not suggest they’ve been ruling out a legislative investigation.

“They [Republicans] seem to think that they have ideas as to how this could transpire,” Filler-Corn said. “We have yet to see the details. So until we know, we cannot make a decision ourselves.”

The Washington Post’s Gregory S. Schneider, Jenna Portnoy and Fenit Nirappil contributed to this report.




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