RICHMOND, Va. – Lawyers for Virginia Lieutenant Gov. Justin Fairfax have written to prosecutors in Boston and Durham asking them to open an investigation into the sexual assault allegations two different women have made against him.
The letters ask prosecutors to move the investigations quickly so they can decide to either charge him or clear him of the alleged crimes.
Fairfax previously called on them to investigate, but his lawyers say he has not gotten a chance to talk with the prosecutors.
Earlier this year, two women – Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson – came forward accusing Fairfax of sexual assault. One of the alleged incidents happened while he was a college student at Duke University in 2000, and the other reportedly happened during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
Both of Fairfax’s accusers released statements through their attorneys following Fairfax’s letters, criticizing Fairfax’s requests for a “secret, months- or years-long criminal investigation” instead of a hearing in the Virginia legislature.
The statement from Watson’s attorney is as follows:
If Justin Fairfax wanted the public to know the truth, he would have welcomed the hearing in the Virginia legislature requested by Ms. Tyson & Ms. Watson. All parties will testify under oath and present witnesses. That is the last thing in the world Fairfax wants and he has fought it at every turn.
Fairfax’s changing story speaks for itself. First: the rapes didn’t happen. Then: the sex was consensual. His new claim – never before made – that Ms. Watson engaged in the crime of blackmail, is defamatory. Ms. Watson, who unlike Mr. Fairfax has always been consistent, didn’t want to put herself or Fairfax’s family (she knew his wife at Duke) through the public revelation of another rape allegation, so she gave him the opportunity to resign. Ms. Watson never threatened to sue Fairfax and never demanded money or favors. When Fairfax refused to step down, Ms. Watson felt that Dr. Tyson and the public deserved the truth.
Regarding the other statements in Fairfax’s lawyer’s recent letter:
- The claim that there was “elapsed time” before Ms. Watson told others about the rape is false. There was no “elapsed time” between Fairfax’s rape of Meredith Watson and her revealing it to several people who have already publicly confirmed her immediate report. Then, Ms. Watson repeatedly told others over the following years, people who have publicly confirmed it. Before Fairfax was elected, Ms. Watson emailed a person working on his campaign and revealed the rape. All of this evidence has been reported.
- Justin Fairfax – a lawyer – pushing the alleged polygraph results is an insult to the public. Mr. Fairfax is well aware that the highest court in Virginia has made it clear that so-called lie detector tests are wholly unreliable and inadmissible. Gary Ridgeway – who murdered 49 women – passed a lie detector test that an innocent man had failed. So did convicted spy Aldrich Ames. It’s shameful for Fairfax and his lawyer to push such voodoo out as relevant.
- Of course, Fairfax wants a secret, months- or years-long criminal investigation that he will use as an excuse not to answer any questions in public. He says he wants due process, but a hearing is due process. He still refuses to answer questions – as both accusers have done. Instead, he has his lawyers issue letters full of false and defamatory claims.
- Note that Fairfax criticizes his rape victims for openly answering Gayle King’s questions on TV. Ms. King offered Mr. Fairfax the opportunity to answer questions too – he would not. Fairfax refuses to answer questions in the Legislature and in the media. That says it all.
The statement from Tyson’s attorneys is as follows:
Lieutenant Governor Fairfax’s letter to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office is another political stunt that shows his lack of respect for survivors of sexual violence. As a former prosecutor, the Lieutenant Governor certainly knows that potential targets of criminal investigations do not get to direct prosecutorial decisions. Like the bogus demand he made in February 2019 for the FBI to investigate Dr. Vanessa Tyson’s sexual assault allegations against him, Lieutenant Government Fairfax knows full well that his demands that the District Attorney take action will go unanswered. Despite his protestations about the unfairness of litigating such serious allegations in the press, his letter’s distorted presentation of facts is intended to do just that.
We also note that on February 14, 2019, Lieutenant Governor’s spokesperson threatened that Mr. Fairfax would file his own criminal complaint against Dr. Tyson if she pressed criminal charges against him in Massachusetts. That threat, like others he has conveyed to sue Dr. Tyson, will not deter her from doing what’s right, but have undoubtedly been leveled by Mr. Fairfax to deter others from coming forward. His letter to the District Attorney appears intended to do the same and is a crude effort to deny agency to survivors of sexual violence. His suggestion that women are liars unless they press criminal charges against their assailants places an unfair demand on survivors and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the criminal justice system. Pursuing criminal charges is a weighty decision that the vast majority of survivors choose not to make for legitimate reasons. Lieutenant Governor Fairfax would force survivors to rely on the criminal justice system to defend their credibility, or else remain silent about the trauma they have experienced.
The criminal justice system is not the only way government officials like Lieutenant Governor Fairfax can be held accountable for their actions. The Virginia General Assembly has its own independent responsibility to ensure that Virginia’s leaders have the character and temperament to represent the Commonwealth. Lieutenant Governor Fairfax’s letter shows yet again that he is not deserving of his position of power.