RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder publicly announced his innocence Thursday following an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations.
In July, an investigation conducted by an outside attorney hired by Virginia Commonwealth University found that Wilder kissed a former 20-year-old student against her will.
The former student, Sydney Black, who is now 22, filed a formal complaint with VCU saying that Wilder kissed her against her will in 2017.
Wilder addressed the findings and allegations in a press conference held at VCU on Thursday morning.
“The whole attempt tarnishes my legacy but the people never believed it,” Governor Wilder said.
While the investigation found Wilder guilty of non-consensual sexual conduct, he was cleared of other allegations made by the student, including sexual exploitation, sex-based discrimination and retaliation.
“I was cleared of 3/4 of the allegations found against me,” Wilder said. He went on to appeal the finding of non-consensual sexual conduct.
Wilder says there were several reasons he appealed the finding.
“The complainant testified that I wrote and gave her a note apologizing, telling her not to share the note and not to tell anyone about the note,” Wilder said. “She was never able to produce a note, could not explain to anyone what happened to the note nor did the investigator find it necessary to clarify the inconsistencies.”
Wilder also said that work records established that Black did not work on the day she claimed to have received the note. He also addressed accusations of phone harassment, saying Black never produced phone records.
“I provided phone records...from February to June that clearly show no harassment,” Wilder said.
Wilder went on to address the lack of witnesses.
“There was not one single corroborating witness, although the complainant said her cousin was a witness,” he said.
According to Wilder, Black’s cousin refused to be interviewed by the investigator. Wilder also stated that Black never worked with him directly nor did she report to him.
The former governor said he went into a hearing with a panel last week for six hours.
“The hearing panel rejected the findings of the investigation and found I was not responsible of non-consensual sexual conduct,” Wilder said.
He said all of his reasons for the appeal and his findings are in a 15-page statement.
“I’ve lived on this Earth (for) 88 years. Point to a single thing during that entity that blemishes my reputation and it’s not there,” Wilder said.
VCU released a statement on the press conference:
“Governor Wilder held a news conference this morning at VCU. His media advisory and statements made at the news conference are his own and do not represent an official statement of the University. VCU does not comment on or publicly disclose information about personnel matters that may be underway. The matter addressed by Governor Wilder this morning is not complete; thus, his comments were premature. Under VCU policy a Review Panel makes findings and recommendations that are forwarded to the appropriate senior management executive for further review. The senior management executive may affirm or reject the Review Panel’s recommendation on responsibility.”
The committee’s findings will now go to an executive-level where a final decision will be made.
Jason Wolfrey, Black’s attorney, said Wilder wasn’t cleared of anything and the committee never said the claims were unfounded. Wolfrey went on to say the committee commented on the report, calling it deeply concerning.
NBC12 reached out to Wilder’s office for additional comment but have not heard back.
There is no word on when the final report from VCU officials will be released.
Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved.