A Virginia House Committee Hearing on the Allegations Against Justin Fairfax is Probably a Trap. But For Whom?

Virginia state Del. Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee, may have created a trap. The question is who will it catch: House Republicans or Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D)?

After noting that House Democrats had refused an offer to form a special, bipartisan subcommittee to look into accusations of sexual assault two women leveled against Fairfax, Bell said, “I think it’s appropriate to make a statement about future plans.”

“The Courts of Justice Committee will schedule a meeting where we will invite Dr. [Vanessa] Tyson, Miss [Meredith] Watson to testify. We will also be inviting Lt. Gov. Fairfax to testify.”

“This will give all parties a chance to be heard,” Bell said.

Fairfax spokesman Lauren Burke said Bell’s decision was both a “distraction” and “political theater.”

Former delegate David Ramadan, a Republican, tends to agree with Burke. Ramadan told me his former colleagues were putting politics ahead of the truth and that a hearing “would put Republicans in a trap.”

“The committee has no investigative capabilities,” Ramadan said. “No staff, no money. It’s a charade.”

When contacted for a response, Bell said he had no comment beyond what he said on the House floor.

So the House committee would possibly take testimony from Fairfax’s accusers, neither of has agreed to appear, and possibly from Fairfax.

It really is a trap. But a political one, not a legal one.

Fairfax has already said he wants law enforcement to conduct a fair and impartial look into the accusations against him.

At the same time, he has made a perfectly reasonable request that due process be observed. It’s an appeal to fairness, which still has the power to move folks regardless of their politics.

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