RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - An effort to impeach Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is on hold, but not dead. Since the General Assembly has never impeached an elected official in modern times, lawmakers find themselves in uncharted waters.
Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) says he is now considering other ways, in addition to impeachment, the General Assembly might investigate sexual assault allegations against Fairfax.
Two women, through their attorneys, have stated that Fairfax sexually assaulted them. One was an alleged incident at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, the other an alleged attack in 2000 at Duke University.
After Hope circulated a draft bill Sunday to begin the impeachment process, he tweeted early Monday, “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.”
The bill would have called for the House Courts of Justice Committee to investigate the allegations, then recommend to the house whether or not Fairfax should be impeached. But some lawmakers raised questions about whether the committee is set up to conduct such an investigation.
“There are some legal questions about whether these charges are the proper subject of impeachment. One is that they happened long before he was in office, and there are jurisdictional issues in my mind as an attorney because these crimes occurred in other states,” committee member Del. Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax) said.
When asked about Fairfax’s possible impeachment, House Speaker Kirk Cox said, “Impeachment is unprecedented. So approaching that needs to be very deliberative and thoughtful.”
Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Richmond), Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, said the group does not oppose impeachment, as some media outlets have reported.
Rather, Bagby says the VLBC supports the investigation of the allegations in some form, saying, “Overall, as a Caucus, as a body, both Republicans and Democrats, we want to make sure we use the right avenue.”
“I’m talking to my colleagues and will continue talking to colleagues until we find a pathway to investigation because I owe that to the women who have come forward. They’re very brave, very courageous and I want to give them that opportunity,” Hope said.
In the meantime, Fairfax is standing firm against resigning and maintains his innocence.
“We have called for an independent investigation and I am still very confident in the truth, thank you,” Fairfax said.
After the impeachment process was delayed, lawyers for the two accusers issued a statement saying the women urge legislators to investigate and that they are willing to testify.
A Fairfax spokesperson confirms that two government staffers for Fairfax and two employees of his political action committee resigned when the second assault allegation surfaced.
The law firm where Fairfax has worked, Morrison & Foerster, released a statement saying Fairfax has taken a leave of absence while the firm investigates the allegations.