Republicans in the House of Delegates say Democrats aren’t cooperating with plans to hold a legislative hearing on sexual assault allegations against Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax.
In a letter sent to the Democratic caucus last week and made public by the GOP Tuesday, Republican Delegate Rob Bell proposes a special subcommittee with five Democrats and five Republicans. The committee would be chaired by both Bell and Democrat Vivian Watts.
Bell proposes a two-day hearing sometime this summer, allowing Fairfax and both of his accusers to testify under oath and answer questions from lawmakers. He suggests they can each submit evidence and call on other witnesses. Bell says he’s open to negotiating those details with Democrats.
In a response letter, also released by Republicans, Democratic minority leader Eileen Filler-Corn says Democrats don’t like the idea. She says they’re afraid the hearing could become politically-charged and possibly get in the way of criminal investigations. At this point, it’s not clear if law enforcement is investigating either accusation.
Democrats say they want a third-party to oversee any hearing or investigation, but they haven’t specified who or what that would be.
In a separate statement, the Democratic caucus added "the accusers and the accused deserve better than a politically motivated and unprecedented spectacle such as the one Republicans have proposed."
In emotional interviews that aired nationally this week on CBS, both of Fairfax’s accusers say they want to testify publicly. Meredith Watson called on Virginia lawmakers to act. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax has consistently denied the allegations.