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Virginia sex allegations are latest against state officials

February 12, 2019
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FILE - In this May 23, 2017, file photo, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens speaks to supporters during a rally outside the state Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo. Greitens resigned June 1, 2018, while facing potential House impeachment proceedings over allegations of sexual and political misconduct. A woman with whom Greitens had an extramarital affair testified that he slapped, shoved, restrained and belittled her during a series of sexual encounters in 2015, while he was preparing to run for governor. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Virginia’s lieutenant governor has denied newly publicized allegations that he sexually assaulted two women years ago and has vowed to continue serving in office. It’s a scenario that already has played out in several other states, with differing conclusions.

At least six other statewide elected officials have faced allegations of sexual misconduct since 2017. Several initially resisted calls to step down before eventually doing so under the pressure of public scrutiny and ongoing investigations. At least one other accused official remains in office.

Nationwide, at least 90 state lawmakers also have resigned or been ousted, faced discipline or other repercussions, or been publicly accused of sexual misconduct since the beginning of 2017. Many of those allegations were brought to light as part of the #MeToo movement that gained steam after allegations of sexual misconduct were made against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat, is accused of sexually assaulting a woman while they were students at Duke University in 2000 and forcing another woman to perform a sex act at a Boston hotel in 2004. Fairfax has denied ever sexually assaulting anyone.

A look at other statewide elected officials who have recently faced sexual misconduct allegations:

— Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican. Bentley resigned April 10, 2017, as House impeachment proceedings began against him. He pleaded guilty that same day to two misdemeanor campaign finance violations that arose during an investigation of his alleged affair with a top aide.

An investigatory report for the impeachment proceedings had said Bentley encouraged an “atmosphere of intimidation” to try to keep the relationship secret and had directed a law officer to try to track down and seize recordings of him making sexually charged comments to the woman.

— Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray, a Republican. Murray resigned Feb. 9, 2018, following accusations of sexual misconduct by two women from decades ago. One woman accused him of sexually attacking her after hours at a Cheyenne law office where they both worked over 35 years ago. The other woman said Murray forcibly kissed her when she was 18 years old after she had been babysitting for his family on New Year’s Eve 1988.

— New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat. Schneiderman had built a reputation as a supporter of the #MeToo movement and had filed a lawsuit aimed at securing better compensation for those accusing Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

But he resigned May 7, after a media report that he had slapped, choked, threatened and abused four women during intimate encounters. Campaign finance reports show Schneiderman used nearly $340,000 in political campaign money to pay a law firm that represented him during an investigation into the allegations.

— Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, a Republican. Schedler resigned effective May 8 after being accused in a lawsuit by an employee of sexually harassing her for years and punishing her when she rebuffed his advances. The state paid nearly $150,000 to settle the lawsuit plus an additional $35,000 on private attorneys to respond to the suit.

— Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican. Greitens resigned June 1 while facing potential House impeachment proceedings over allegations of sexual and political misconduct. A woman with whom Greitens had an extramarital affair testified that he slapped, shoved, restrained and belittled her during a series of sexual encounters in 2015, while he was preparing to run for governor.

As jury selection was getting under way for a May criminal trial, a St. Louis prosecutor dropped a charge of invasion of privacy related to a nonconsensual compromising photo that Greitens allegedly took of the woman.

In exchange for Greitens’ resignation, the prosecutor also dropped a separate charge of tampering with computer data alleging that Greitens improperly provided his political fundraiser with a donor list from a veterans charity he founded.

— Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, Republican. A special prosecutor declined in October 2018 to pursue criminal charges against Hill. That decision came as a state investigation cited witness testimony that an apparently intoxicated Hill inappropriately touched a female lawmaker and three female legislative staffers during a March party at an Indianapolis bar celebrating the end of the 2018 legislative session.

Other top elected officials had called on Hill to resign after media publicized the allegations in July. He remains in office.

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Follow David A. Lieb at https://twitter.com/DavidALieb