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Va. House Speaker to Resign

June 13, 2002

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ S. Vance Wilkins Jr. is resigning as speaker of the Virginia House after admitting that he paid at least $100,000 in hush money to a woman who accused him of sexually harassing her, The Associated Press has learned.

Wilkins, a Republican who was the state’s most powerful legislator, reluctantly decided to step down amid of drumbeat of demands from top party officeholders over the past few days, a source close to the lawmaker said on condition of anonymity.

Wilkins, 65, became the state’s first Republican speaker in 2000 after leading the GOP to control of the House of Delegates for the first time in history.

It was not immediately clear whether Wilkins would retain his seat in the House, where he has been a member for 24 years.

Pressure had been growing for Wilkins to resign since last Friday, when The Washington Post reported that Wilkins had reached a settlement with Jennifer L. Thompson.

Thompson claimed Wilkins groped her and pinned her against furniture last year at the building that housed the speaker’s hometown office and the road-building company he once owned.

She never filed a claim in court, and the settlement barred Wilkins and Thompson from discussing the allegations, the newspaper said.

As speaker, Wilkins had control over committee appointments, which gave him enormous influence over which bills live and which die.

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