Former Virginia Gov L Douglas Wilder kissed a university student 66 years his junior without her consent, an investigation has found.
Virginia Commonwealth University student Sydney Black filed a complaint with authorities and school officials last December after Wilder, 88, took her out to dinner to celebrate her 20th birthday, gave her alcohol and kissed her.
The now-22-year-old also claimed that Wilder had made several other inappropriate advances, including inviting her to live at his house and accompany him on international travel and offering to pay for her law school.
The university, where Wilder is a distinguished professor, hired an outside attorney to investigate the allegations.
The probe found that Wilder was guilty of ‘non-consensual sexual conduct’ but cleared him of three other allegations Black had made, of sexual exploitation, sex-based discrimination and retaliation, according to The Washington Post.
Wilder, who was the nation’s first elected black governor and served from 1990 to 1994, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
He has until next week to contest the investigation’s findings.
Possible sanctions could include Wilder’s firing.
Black began working with Wilder as an assistant at the L Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU in November 2015.
He began to take a special interest in her education in 2017, she said. When he asked to take her out to a riverfront restaurant in Richmond to celebrate her birthday, she was flattered and said yes.
During dinner on February 16, 2017, Wilder allegedly ordered Black – who was underage at the time – multiple vodka martinis as he told her he could help her get accepted to the Howard University School of Law, where he is a board member.
They went back to the divorced octogenarian’s condo after dinner, at which point Black claimed he ‘reached over and put his hand on my right leg, and I just kind of looked at him, and as soon as I looked at him, he kissed me on my mouth. I immediately jerked away.’
She said he admitted that he was in the wrong immediately after.
Weeks later, he invited her to brunch at his country house and offered to let her live there rent free, she claimed.
Black turned down his offers and made it clear that she didn’t want a personal relationship with him.
Afterward, she claimed, Wilder told her that there was no longer funding for her assistant position.
Black said the situation left her depressed and caused her to withdraw from her classes.
She waited nearly two years to report his alleged misconduct to authorities because she feared the consequences of accusing such a powerful figure.
The school waited several months before hiring an attorney to investigate her claims.
On Tuesday, Black received a two-page letter summarizing the probe’s findings along with a 262-page report.
Her attorney, Jason V Wolfrey, responded to the report with a statement that said: ‘We are pleased the investigation has validated Sydney’s report to VCU about Mr Wilder’s conduct.’
Wilder – who has not spoken publicly about the allegations – has until July 16 to contest the finding that he is responsible for non-consensual sexual contact.
If he contests the findings, VCU’s Review Panel will hold a hearing to determine if the investigation was conducted properly.
If he accepts them, both parties will have to agree to a sanction, which could range from counseling to demotion, suspension and termination of employment.
Black’s mother has said she wants Wilder to resign from the university.
‘No one else’s child should have to go through what my child went through,’ Margo Stokes told the Post.
‘He should step down. It’s just over. It’s over. He owes my child an apology. It’s just really sad that he put her through all this.’
Wilder’s $150,000 annual employment contract was renewed by VCU on May 31, more than three months after the investigation began.
A university spokesman declined to comment on the investigation, citing student and employee privacy policies.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Megan Sheets