Virginia Dem Backs Off From Impeaching Lt. Gov. over Sex Assault Allegations

A Virginia Democrat who had planned to file articles of impeachment against Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax on Monday now says he won’t be going ahead with it after all; at least not yet.

Delegate Patrick Hope said over the weekend that he would move forward with the impeachment process if Fairfax did not resign by Sunday night. This was after Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting them. Tyson claims Fairfax assaulted her in 2004 when they both attended the Democratic National Convention. On Friday, Watson also came forward, alleging that he assaulted her when they were university students in 2000.

Hope did work on a draft resolution for impeaching Fairfax, and sent it to colleagues over the weekend. Early Monday morning, however, he appeared to change his mind.

“Yesterday I sent draft language to my colleagues on the first step of an impeachment action regarding the Lt. Governor,” Hope tweeted. “There has been an enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback which has led to additional conversations that need to take place before anything is filed.”

In subsequent tweets, Hope said, “We owe it to all parties involved- especially the victims- to make sure that we have thought through every option the General Assembly has,” and, “I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson. I promise that my work on this issue will be tireless until we have a process and outcome that treats these women with the respect they deserve going forward.”

When asked on Twitter if this meant he was not going to file articles of impeachment on Monday, Hope said, “That’s correct.”

The draft resolution, obtained by the Washington Post, said:

Whereas the House of Delegates believes all allegations of sexual assault must be taken with the utmost seriousness; and whereas the House of Delegates believes the allegations made by Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Ms. Meredith Watson to be credible in nature, while also respecting the principles of due process; now, therefore, be it resolved by the House of Delegates that proceedings for the impeachment of Lieutenant Governor Justin E. Fairfax shall be initiated.

Fairfax, meanwhile, insists that his experiences with the women were consensual. A spokeswoman said in a statement, “The Lt. Governor is aggressively exploring options for a thorough, independent, and impartial investigation of these allegations.”

While all this has been going on, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has been facing pressure to resign after a photograph featuring blackface and a KKK costume was found on his medical school yearbook page. If Northam were to step down, Fairfax would be next in line to become governor. Next in line after Fairfax (should he resign or be removed) would be State Attorney General Mark Herring, who is also at the center of a scandal after admitting that he himself wore blackface in the past. Next in line after those three Democrats would be Republican Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk Cox.

[Image via CBS screengrab]

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