2nd woman accuses Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, calls for his resignation
A second woman has come forward accusing Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault.
Lawyers for Meredith Watson released a statement Friday saying that she was raped by Fairfax while they were both Duke University students in 2000 and called for Fairfax’s resignation.
The statement reads:
“We serve as counsel for Meredith Watson, who was raped by Justin Fairfax in 2000, while they were both students at Duke University. Mr. Fairfax’s attack was premeditated and aggressive. The two were friends but never dated or had any romantic relationship.
“Ms. Watson shared her account of the rape with friends in a series of emails and Facebook messages that are now in our possession. Additionally, we have statements from former classmates corroborating that Ms. Watson immediately told friends that Mr. Fairfax had raped her.
“Ms. Watson was upset to learn that Mr. Fairfax raped at least one other woman after he attacked her. The details of Ms. Watson’s attack are similar to those described by Dr. Vanessa Tyson.
“At this time, Ms. Watson is reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving in public office should be of the highest character. She has no interest in becoming a media personality or reliving the trauma that has greatly affected her life. Similarly, she is not seeking any financial damages.
“On behalf of our client, we have notified Justin Fairfax through his attorneys that Ms. Watson hopes he will resign from public office.”
Fairfax swiftly denied the allegation and called for an investigation into the accusations.
“I deny this latest unsubstantiated allegation. It is demonstrably false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever,” he wrote in a statement. “I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations. Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth. I will clear my good name and I have nothing to hide.”
The lieutenant governor cited his prior FBI background checks and campaigns as yielding no such history, and stressed that he would not resign.
“I have passed two full field background checks by the FBI and run for office in two highly contested elections with nothing like this being raised before,” he wrote. “It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me. I will not resign.”
Later on Friday, lawyers for Watson released a second statement:
“We have heard from numerous press sources that in response to Meredith Watson revealing that Justin Fairfax raped her when she was a student at Duke, Mr. Fairfax has chosen to attack his victim again, now smearing her with the typical ‘she’s nuts’ defense. He revealed that Ms. Watson was the victim of a prior rape. That is true.
“Ms. Watson was raped by a basketball player during her sophomore year at Duke. She went to the Dean, who provided no help and discouraged her from pursuing the claim further. Ms. Watson also told friends, including Justin Fairfax.
“Mr. Fairfax then used this prior assault against Ms. Watson, as he explained to her during the only encounter she had with him after the rape. She left a campus party when he arrived, and he followed her out. She turned and asked: ‘Why did you do it?’ Mr. Fairfax answered: ‘I knew that because of what happened to you last year, you’d be too afraid to say anything.’ Mr. Fairfax actually used the prior rape of his ‘friend’ against her when he chose to rape her in a premeditated way. Like he is smearing Dr. Vanessa Tyson, Mr. Fairfax is now smearing Ms. Watson. That’s shameful.
“The smears on victims of sexual assault have to stop. Why would any woman come forward with information about a powerful man knowing that he and his supporters will stop at nothing to smear and discredit them? Women come forward to support one another and to stop the culture of rape that is even more pervasive than we acknowledge.”
Tyson has accused Fairfax of sexual assault and issued a statement Wednesday describing the alleged 2004 incident.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault. Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head towards his crotch. Only then did I realize that he had unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants, and taken out his penis. He then forced his penis into my mouth,” Tyson said in a statement.
The allegation first became public Sunday evening on the conservative website Big League Politics. Fairfax has denied the allegation and called the 2004 interaction, which both say took place in Boston at the Democratic National Convention, “100 percent consensual.”
Tyson said Wednesday that she released the statement about the encounter to set the record straight and that she does not want to get “further embroiled” in the political situation.
A source told CNN that Tyson, as of now, has decided she is not pressing charges. The statute of limitations in Massachusetts for sexual assault is 15 years.
Following the release of the second statement from Watson’s lawyers, a Duke University spokesperson told WNCN, “We have just become aware of this allegation and are looking into it. I will let you know if we make any additional statements.”
The top three Democrats in Virginia’s state government are currently contending with various controversies, including Gov. Ralph Northam and state Attorney General Mark Herring admitting to having worn blackface in the 1980s. The trio of controversies has thrown Virginia politics into chaos, as state Democrats look for the best way to move past the swirling issues.
CNN contributed to this report.