Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) has been placed on leave by his law firm as the company looks into allegations of sexual assault.
The law firm, San Francisco-based Morrison & Foerster, said it had retained outside attorneys to investigate the allegations against Fairfax.
Fairfax had agreed to cooperate with the investigation, the firm said.
“We take the allegations against Justin very seriously. As a firm, we believe that it is important to seriously listen to any allegation of sexual assault or harassment, and to treat all persons making such allegations with respect and sensitivity,” the chairman of the firm, Larren Nashelsky, said in a statement.
Fairfax, who has a law degree from Columbia, joined the firm in 2018. Prior to entering office, Fairfax had served as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Last week, two women accused Fairfax of sexual assault in separate incidents that allegedly happened years ago.
One woman, Scripps College Professor Vanessa Tyson, said Fairfax had forced her to perform oral sex during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. A second woman, Meredith Watson, said Friday that Fairfax had raped her in 2000, when they both attended Duke University.
Fairfax has denied both allegations.
Democrats in Virginia, reeling from scandals enveloping Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Attorney General Mark Herring (D) that were taking place at the same time the new allegations came out against Fairfax, had initially treaded lightly around Tyson’s allegations.
But the dam broke Friday when Watson came forward. Over the weekend, the Virginia Democratic Party, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and most party officials said Fairfax should resign.
Fairfax, 39, said he had no plans to step down. In a statement Saturday, he asked the FBI to investigate the allegations. On Monday, he said he would preside over the state Senate, one of the official functions of his office.