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House Speaker Cox calls on Dems to commit to investigation into Fairfax sexual assault claims

Posted at 5:54 PM, Feb 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-22 07:37:16-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Republican lawmakers in Virginia are calling for an investigation into sexual assault allegations against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax.

Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) held a press conference Thursday afternoon, saying Democrats have not been cooperating with efforts to launch a bipartisan investigation.

Fairfax has denied assault allegations made by Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, both of whom claim Fairfax sexually assaulted them in 2004 and 2000, respectively, and has repeatedly indicated that he does not have plans to resign despite calls to do so.

Cox said he has been working on a framework to investigate the sexual assault claims, but Virginia Democrats have refused to give him a yes or no answer on the investigation.

The House Speaker said his investigation would include a House Rules Committee resolution made up of five Democrats and five Republicans.

"We have obviously spent all of our time and effort trying to make this process work. That's why I was pushing so hard that we need an answer. We've now gotten our answer. The answer is essentially no. We will consider all options at this point," said Cox.

Virginia Democratic leaders called Cox’s characterization of their communication “completely inaccurate.”

“We have said from the beginning when they stated to us that they wanted to move forward in a bipartisan manner that they had no idea on how this could work, what would it look and they have yet to share any details with us about their thoughts on that,” Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D – Fairfax County) said.

“We believe strongly that everybody deserves a right to be heard. What you're asking is… is this institution and is the General Assembly the right place for that hearing? How would it be done? Who would be in charge? Are they bringing in experts? Are they bringing in professionals? Is there going to be attorneys involved? Is it going to be a rules committee? Is it going to be another committee? None of this has been laid out for us. We need more information,” said Filler-Corn.

Filler-Corn went on to say that she did not want the General Assembly to impede possible law enforcement investigations.

Earlier this week, Virginia House Democrats called upon law enforcement to investigate the sexual assault claims against Fairfax.

Cox's call for action comes hours after lawyers for Dr. Tyson, the first woman who accused Fairfax of sexual assault, called on the Virginia General Assembly to initiate an independent investigation before the session adjourned Saturday, February 23.

The lawyers slammed the General Assembly, saying they have “utterly failed to act” against Fairfax, despite a second woman coming forth with sexual assault allegations.

"Victims are asking for this. They have consistently asked for this," said Cox. "I saw a letter today from Dr. Vanessa Tyson, basically, and properly asking for us to take some action."

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.

Tyson and Watson have both said they are willing to testify about the sexual assault allegations.

Fairfax released a statement late Thursday afternoon saying an investigation into the sexual assault claims are “better left to law enforcement.”

”The Lieutenant Governor has remained steadfast in denying the allegations against him. He has repeatedly made clear his desire for a full, fair, independent, impartial, and non-political investigation. He was the first and remains the only party to these matters to call for such an investigation in order to get to the truth.

It would be extraordinary and unprecedented to initiate a General Assembly inquiry about matters that are better left to law enforcement.

The Lieutenant Governor remains confident that the truth will prevail and that he will be exonerated.”

This story is developing.