2 of Lt. Gov. Fairfax’s staffers resign in wake of sexual assault scandal

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The two women accusing Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax of sexually assaulting them both say they’re willing to testify at impeachment hearings, while Fairfax has called for the FBI to investigate the claims.

The first allegation of sexual assault against Fairfax surfaced last week when Dr. Vanessa Tyson said she was forced to perform oral sex on him while they were at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. His second accuser, Meredith Watson, says she was raped by Fairfax in 2000 while the two were students at Duke University.

Fairfax released a second statement Saturday denying the allegations, saying “I did not sexually assault or rape Meredith Watson, Vanessa Tyson or anyone else.”

Two of his staffers have resigned in the wake of the allegations, a spokesperson confirmed Monday. The lieutenant governor only has three staffers total. The spokeswoman also confirmed two members of a political action committee that supports Fairfax resigned as well.

Fairfax said he knew Watson in college, before and after the encounter, and said “she never said to me that our interaction was not consensual or caused her any discomfort.”

He has also said the encounter with Dr. Tyson was also consensual and “she never said or otherwise indicated that our interaction was not consensual or caused her any discomfort.”

Since both sexual assault allegations surfaced, Fairfax has called for an investigation, including for the FBI to be involved.

“As an officer of the court and a former federal prosecutor, I have dedicated my life to the law and due process,” Fairfax said in a statement. “Consequently, I call on all appropriate and impartial investigatory authorities, including the FBI, to investigate fully and thoroughly the allegations against me by Ms. Watson and Dr. Tyson.”

Following Fairfax’s statement, Smith Mullin Counselors at Law in Montclair, NJ, attorney’s for Watson, released their own statement saying, “He claims that two women, who never spoke or met each other, but who describe very similar sexual assaults, are lying. Fairfax says both women’s claims are “unsubstantiated.” False - they corroborate each other.”

The statement from Watson’s attorney also refuted Fairfax saying the encounter with Watson was consensual, and said the only post rape interaction between the two was when Watson confronted him about the assault.

In response to Fairfax calling for an FBI investigation, Watson’s attorney said she is prepared and willing to testify at impeachment hearings but the FBI does not have any jurisdiction over the matter.

“Mr. Fairfax claims to want due process, saying he seeks an FBI investigation. But he knows as a former Prosecutor, that the FBI has no jurisdiction over this matter. Indeed, my client may contact North Carolina authorities about a possible criminal prosecution,” Watson’s attorneys said in a release.

The same sentiment was echoed by Dr. Tyson’s attorneys, saying “he has attempted to mislead the public by volunteering to submit to an investigation by the FBI, which has no jurisdiction in this matter.”

In the statement, attorneys said Dr. Tyson was also willing to testify at impeachment hearings about her sexual assault.

“We are confident that once the Virginia legislature hears Dr. Tyson’s harrowing account of this sexual assault, the testimony of many corroborating witnesses, and evidence of his attempts to mislead the public about The Washington Post’s decision not to run a story in 2018, it will conclude that he lacks the character, fitness and credibility to serve in any capacity,” Dr. Tyson’s attorneys said in a release.

The attorney for Watson released a statement Monday, saying that Fairfax does not actually want due process.

“After Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson reported that Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax raped them, Fairfax said he wanted “due process”. Impeachment hearings would have provided just that. It turns out that Mr. Fairfax does not want due process; he wants to assault the character of his victims in secret, not in public, and certainly not under oath. Meredith Watson asks the Virginia Legislature to hold hearings, regardless of what they are called, and to reject a secret and delayed proceeding. Both victims of his sexual assault have agreed to testify and they will produce witnesses and documents to show their honesty and good character. Please do not allow these women to be further victimized by delay and defamation," Watson’s attorney said in a statement.

Amid the sexual assault allegations, several government officials have called for Fairfax to resign, with Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) even saying he would introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax if he did not resign. A two-thirds majority in the Virginia Senate is needed to force removal from office.

Speaker Kirk Cox has said that he believes Fairfax should resign for the Commonwealth’s best interests.

“There are multiple, serious credible allegations of sexual assault against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. I deeply respect the principle of due process and believe that the gravity of this situation demands prudence and deliberation, but the Lt. Governor has clearly lost the trust and confidence of the people of Virginia," Cox said in a release. "His ability to serve has been permanently impaired and, at this point, it is in the best interests of the Commonwealth for him to resign.”

State Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, along with the Democratic Party of Virginia, have also called for Fairfax’s resignation.

Representatives Don Beyer, Abigail Spanberger, Elaine Luria, Jennifer Wexton and Gerry Connolly issued a joint statement saying the allegations and Fairfax’s response to them “do not meet the standard to which we hold Virginia’s highest elected officers.”

In the statement, the representatives said the initial claim against Fairfax by Tyson is “compelling and highly credible." It goes on to say that Friday’s allegation by Watson is “another extremely disturbing incident, which lends further credence to Dr. Tyson’s story.”

Read the lieutenant governor’s second full statement below:

"This has been a devastating week for my family. It has been an especially devastating time for the great Commonwealth of Virginia.

I say again without reservation: I did not sexually assault or rape Meredith Watson, Vanessa Tyson or anyone else.

Our American values don’t just work when it’s convenient — they must be applied at the most difficult of times.

As an officer of the court and a former federal prosecutor, I have dedicated my life to the law and due process.

Consequently, I call on all appropriate and impartial investigatory authorities, including the FBI, to investigate fully and thoroughly the allegations against me by Ms. Watson and Dr. Tyson.

I ask that all three of us be respected during this process. The one thing I want to make abundantly clear is that in both situations I knew at the time, and I know today, that the interactions were consensual.

I heard from Dr. Tyson after the 2004 Convention, and she never said or otherwise indicated that our interaction was not consensual or caused her any discomfort.

Regarding Ms. Watson, I knew Ms. Watson in college both before and after the encounter, and she never said to me that our interaction was not consensual or caused her any discomfort.

What I have just expressed is the truth. I want to stand here in that truth and restate that my truth, as well as the truth of Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson, should be fully investigated and thoroughly assessed.

I believe and trust that due process will provide the fairness, justice and honesty that is necessary.

I am asking that no one rush to judgment and I am asking for there to be space in this moment for due process."

Read the full statement from Meredith Watson’s attorney below:

"Justin Fairfax’s latest statement re-victimizes Ms. Watson and Dr. Tyson. He claims that two women, who never spoke or met each other, but who describe very similar sexual assaults, are lying. Fairfax says both women’s claims are “unsubstantiated.” False - they corroborate each other.

Fairfax, now, for the first time admits sexual contact with Ms. Watson, but now claims that it was “consensual.” There was nothing consensual about the rape of Ms. Watson and the only post rape interaction between them consisted of Ms. Watson confronting Mr. Fairfax about the assault. We will provide at least two witnesses whom Ms. Watson told of the assault the day after Fairfax raped her. We will also produce documentary evidence of Ms. Watson revealing to others the fact that Fairfax raped her. Fairfax says he “passed” two FBI background checks. Ms. Watson was never interviewed by the FBI, so he was “cleared” of nothing related to his rape of Ms. Watson.

Mr. Fairfax claims to want due process, saying he seeks an FBI investigation. But he knows as a former Prosecutor, that the FBI has no jurisdiction over this matter. Indeed, my client may contact North Carolina authorities about a possible criminal prosecution.

For real due process, not hidden from the public, we invite Mr. Fairfax to join Ms. Watson and her witnesses in testifying at an impeachment hearing. Ms. Watson stands ready, although it will be painful, to tell the Virginia Legislature what Mr. Fairfax did to her when she was 20 years old."

Read the full statement from Dr. Vanessa Tyson’s attorney below"

"Our client, Dr. Vanessa Tyson, is fuiiy prepared to testify at impeachment proceedings and to cooperate with law enforcement in any investigation of Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. As Dr. Tyson detailed in her February 6, 2019 statement, Lt. Governor Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004, forcing her to perform oral sex without her consent.

In response to two credible claims of sexual assault, by women with no connection to one another, Lt. Governor Fairfax has claimed that the women lied about what he insists were consensual sexual encounters and has baselessly and callously attempted to discredit these women. Lt. Governor Fairfax’s assertion that these sexual assaults were consensual, while simultaneously trying both on and offthe record to discredit the victims, says all you need to know about his lack of fitness to serve in public office.

We are confident that once the Virginia legislature hears Dr. Tyson’s harrowing account of this sexual assault, the testimony of many corroborating witnesses, and evidence of his attempts to mislead the public about The Washington Post’s decision not to run a story in 2018, it will conclude that he lacks the character, fitness and credibility to serve in any capacity. Again today, he has attempted to mislead the public by volunteering to submit to an investigation by the FBI, which has no jurisdiction in this matter. Nevertheless, Dr. Tyson will cooperate in any investigation that occurs."

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