Lawyers for Vanessa Tyson, who accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of raping her, on Thursday blasted the state General Assembly for lacking “political courage” to take action.
Lawyers Debra S. Katz and Lisa Banks urged lawmakers to launch a special counsel-style probe before the General Assembly adjourns Friday.
“It is unfathomable that the Virginia General Assembly appears intent on ending its current session without addressing this issue in any meaningful way,” they said in a statement.
Ms. Tyson, a California college professor, came forward two weeks ago to accuse Mr. Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him when they met as campaign aides at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston.
Maryland resident Meredith Watson then went public with allegations that she suffered a similar attack by Mr. Fairfax when they were students at Duke University in 2000.
Mr. Fairfax has denied the allegations and said the encounters were consensual.
Despite widespread calls for Mr. Fairfax to resign, including from his own Democratic Party, neither Democratic nor Republican lawmakers have opened an investigation.
A Democratic member of the House of Delegates moved to start impeachment hearings but abruptly backed off last week. The Virginia House Democratic Caucus said Tuesday that law enforcement should handle it.
“It now appears that the Virginia General Assembly lacks the political courage to establish a process by which Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson’s serious allegations of sexual violence suffered at the hands of Lt. Governor Fairfax will be fully investigated,” the lawyers wrote. “We ask the members of the Virginia General Assembly to consider what message such inaction sends to victims of sexual assault and rape.”
They added, “The General Assembly must do its job and make clear to citizens of the commonwealth that women will not only be believed, but that appropriate action will be taken based on a credible, transparent process in which all sides have the opportunity to be heard. We urge the Virginia General Assembly to establish a constructive path for moving forward.”
The rape allegations are one in a string of controversies that ensnared the state’s Democratic leaders this month.
Gov. Ralph Northam and state Attorney General Mark Herring are accused of racism for separate incidents in which they wore blackface in the 1980s.
The governor also is bucking widespread calls to step down and has vowed to complete the remaining three years of his four-year term.