Virginia House Democrats are deferring to law enforcement officials to carry out their investigation into accusations that Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax sexually assaulted two women. This comes after a delegate in the Virginia legislature.
Democrat Patrick Hope had threatened to introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax, telling reporters that there is "no question that violent sexual assault qualifies as an impeachable high crime." Hope said that he had drafted language for his colleagues as a first step to take action against the Lt. Governor.
But the Virginia House Democrats said in a statement on Tuesday that they believe the investigation into Fairfax should "proceed unencumbered and outside the political arena." They reiterated their calls for Fairfax to resign, but added "we are willing to work in a bipartisan manner with members of the General Assembly on a path forward."
Lawyers for one of Fairfax's accusers, Meredith Watson, slammed the Democrats in a statement, saying "Apparently, the Virginia House Democratic Caucus believes that courageous victims of rape need to be heard — just not by them. Ms. Watson is counting on the General Assembly to do the right thing and hold hearings now. These nonstop efforts to duck their role is pure cowardice. Sympathy is welcome, but action is needed."
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Watson said since coming forward with details of her encounter with Fairfax, during which she claims the Lt. Gov had raped her while they were students at Duke in 2000, she has "endured relentless scrutiny of my personal life and an unending, bitter flood of hurtful misinformation trumpeted by the media." Watson said despite the legislature's "inaction," she's still willing to testify publicly under oath.
"I am frustrated by calls for an investigation rather than a public hearing into these matters," she said. "Such 'investigations' are secret proceedings, out of the public eye, leaving victims vulnerable to selective leaks and smears. And we all know how such investigations end: with 'inconclusive results.'"
According to staffers within the Virginia Democratic caucus, once lawmakers adjourn this weekend, they are expected to return to Richmond for a "reconvened session" on April 3 to take up vetoes from the governor and amendments. It's possible they could also address the Fairfax controversy again at this time or they could be called back for a special session. That would be up to the Speaker of the House, Republican Kirk Cox.
Officials stress that "nothing is off the table" in terms of impeachment proceedings, but for now they want to see how things develop with law enforcement first.
Fairfax remains adamant about staying in office, saying that he would not resign and instead has called on "all appropriate and i, to investigate fully and thoroughly the allegations against me."
The Democrat was first accused of sexually assaulting Vanessa Tyson at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 where he allegedly forced her to perform oral sex on him. Days later, Watson came forward with her own allegations.
CBS News' Nikole Killion contributed to this report.