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Aides walk out after second woman accuses Virginia lieutenant governor of sexual assault
Four staffers to Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax resigned after a second woman accused the Democrat of sexual assault on Friday, leaving him with a skeleton crew. Meanwhile, an impeachment effort against Fairfax fizzled over the weekend, signaling that the state's embattled leaders will remain in place for now.
What are the details?
Fairfax was already facing an accusation from college professor Vanessa Tyson, who claims the lieutenant governor sexually assaulted her in Boston in 2004, when a second accuser — Meredith Watson — came forward last week saying Fairfax raped her when the two were in college at Duke University.
After Wilson's allegation emerged, two of Fairfax's government aides and two of his political action committee employees resigned, according to The Washington Post. The lieutenant governor lost his policy director, Adele McClure, and scheduler Julia Billingsly. His PAC, We Rise Together, lost employees David Mills and Courtney McCargo.
Fairfax's chief of staff, Lawrence Roberts, is standing by his boss.
"The lieutenant governor's office is a tiny office," he told the Post. "The governor's office has 100,000 state employees. The lieutenant governor has four. So half of his staff remains, and his two most senior people remain."
The same day, Virginia House of Delegates member Patrick Hope (D) announced that he would be launching impeachment proceedings against Fairfax on Monday if the lieutenant governor did not resign before then. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Hope backed off his efforts following a "tense" phone call with his Democratic colleagues on Sunday night.
Hope told reporters Monday that he is open to abandoning his impeachment threat, saying, "We must allow the victims to be heard in the most fair and just process possible. Any process must be open and transparent to the public. If we can come behind another process besides impeachment that will meet these goals, I will be supportive."
Fairfax acknowledges having sexual encounters with each of his accusers but insists the relations were consensual. He has welcomed an independent investigation and suggested even the FBI should get involved, but he is not accused of any federal crimes.
Both alleged victims said they would be willing to testify before the General Assembly, but the Legislature does not have the authority to investigate crimes that took place outside the state of Virginia.
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