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Republicans Announce Hearing On Fairfax Sexual Assault Allegations

Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax speaking at a rally in January.
Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax speaking at a rally in January. Louise Ricks/WCVE

Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates announced Friday they will hold a public hearing on the sexual assault allegations against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax.

On the House floor, Delegate Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, invited the two accusers to share their stories at that hearing Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson have accused Fairfax of sexual assault in the early 2000's. Fairfax denies those allegations. Both Tyson and Watson have requested a hearing and Watson's attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, confirmed Watson will testify.

"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 a statement Friday.”

Bell said the planned hearing will be held in a meeting of the House Courts of Justice Committee. He did not specify what form it would take or when it would be held. On Thursday, House Speaker Kirk Cox said Republicans had also proposed a 10-member, bipartisan investigative committee, but Democrats opposed it.

Cox accused Democrats of making excuses to obstruct bipartisan efforts in the General Assembly to investigate the allegations.

The House Democratic Caucus issued a rebuttal Friday saying any action by the General Assembly to look into these accusations would be more about scoring political points than justice for the victims.

“These allegations are not about campaigns or press releases, and we ask the delegates on the other side of the aisle to respect that,” said spokesperson Kathryn Gilley.

The caucus also asked for more details about the planned hearing. Fairfax reiterated his denial of the allegations on Friday and also called the for a “non-political investigation by law enforcement.”

Delegate Lee Carter, D-Manassas, who said he is also a victim of sexual assault, broke rank with fellow Democrats. He said in a floor speech that he wanted to respect the wishes of Fairfax’s accusers who have asked for the General Assembly to investigate.

“Survivors of sexual assault are and should be entitled to choose whichever legal venue they desire to seek justice,” Carter said.

It’s unclear what the consequences of the hearing would be. Legal scholars say the allegations against Fairfax may not qualify for impeachment.

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