Fairfax accuser’s lawyers call for Virginia General Assembly to initiate independent investigation

Posted at 1:29 PM, Feb 21, 2019

RICHMOND, Va. -- Lawyers for Dr. Vanessa Tyson, the first woman who accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, is calling on the Virginia General assembly to Initiate an independent investigation before the session adjourns on Friday, February 22.

Tyson accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in July 2004 during the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Fairfax acknowledges the sexual encounter, but says the interaction was consensual.

Two weeks ago, Tyson detailed her version of the July 2004 incident.

“Since then, Dr. Tyson has made clear that she is willing to cooperate in any investigation by the Virginia General Assembly or other appropriate authorities, including the Suffolk County District Attorney, to ensure that Lt. Governor Fairfax is held accountable for his actions,” Dr. Tyson’s lawyers Debra S. Katz and Lisa J. Banks said in a statement Thursday.

Dr. Tyson has agreed to meet with members of the Suffolk County District Attorney's staff and law enforcement to detail her allegations of sexual assault. There is no word if she plans to file a criminal complaint against Fairfax. She has previously said that she is not interested in pursuing criminal charges against the Lt. Governor.

The lawyers slammed the Virginia General Assembly, saying they have “utterly failed to act” against Fairfax, despite a second woman, Meredith Watson, who came forward and accused Fairfax of raping her while they were students at Duke University in 2000.

“It now appears that the Virginia General Assembly lacks the political courage to establish a process by which Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson’s serious allegations of sexual violence suffered at the hands of Lt. Governor Fairfax will be fully investigated. We ask the members of the Virginia General Assembly to consider what message such inaction sends to victims of sexual assault and rape,” the lawyers wrote.

The lawyers are calling on the General Assembly to act immediately before their session ends Friday.

“We call on the General Assembly to hire experienced independent investigators to conduct a prompt and thorough inquiry of these matters. Credible allegations of sexual assault must not be ignored,” they wrote. “Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson deserve better than supportive words. The General Assembly must do its job and make clear to citizens of the commonwealth that women will not only be believed, but that appropriate action will be taken based on a credible, transparent process in which all sides have the opportunity to be heard.”

Virginia's code and the rules for the House of Delegates do appear to offer the House the opportunity to launch an investigation into any public official -- complete with subpoena power, public hearings and proper punishments -- and that investigation may take place without going through the impeachment process.

Should an investigation be launched, Virginia's law gives the entire General Assembly and its committees broad power to compel witnesses to testify. Two different statutes specifically say the legislature may demand evidence and subpoena witnesses and those asked to participate must do so -- or face jail time and fines.

In the past the House Speaker Kirk Cox has said the situation deserves "due process," but that Fairfax's ability to serve has been impaired and he should resign.

The CNN wire contributed to this article.



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