Meredith Watson May Seek Possible Criminal Prosecution of Fairfax

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax speaks during an interview in his office at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Fairfax answered questions about the controversial photo in Gov. Ralph Northam's yearbook page. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
AP Photo/Steve Helber

Meredith Watson, the second woman to accuse Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D-VA) of sexual assault, is willing to testify at the impeachment hearings against him if they are conducted and may contact North Carolina authorities regarding possible criminal prosecution, her attorneys said Saturday evening.

“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,” Debra Katz and Lisa Banks said in a statement.

“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,” the pair of lawyers continued.

“Indeed, my client may contact North Carolina authorities about a possible criminal prosecution,” they added.

Virginia’s embattled lieutenant governor on Saturday called for authorities, including the FBI, to investigate sexual assault allegations made against him while defying widespread calls for his resignation with a plea for “space in this moment for due process.”

Fairfax issued a statement repeating his strong denials that he had ever sexually assaulted anyone and made clear he does not intend to immediately resign, despite having lost almost his entire base of support. “This has been a devastating week for my family. It has been an especially devastating time for the great Commonwealth of Virginia,” he said. “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.”

On Wednesday, California professor Dr. Vanessa Tyson, went public with her allegation against Fairfax, claiming he forced her to perform oral sex during the Democrat National Convention in 2004. Watson alleges the embattled Virginia Democrat raped her at Duke University in 2000.

After the second allegation was made Friday, Fairfax — the second African-American to ever win statewide office— was barraged with demands to step down from top Democrats, including a number of presidential hopefuls and most of Virginia’s congressional delegation.

“We believe that allegations of sexual assault must be taken with the utmost seriousness,” said Virginia Democrat Party chair Susan Swecker. “Given the credible nature of the sexual assault claims against Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, it has become clear he can no longer fulfill the duties and responsibilities of the post.”

“While the Lieutenant Governor deserves due process in this matter, it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth that he goes through this process as a private citizen,” she added. “The Lieutenant Governor no longer has our confidence or support. He must resign.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) pledged to work at healing the state’s racial divide and made his first official appearance a week after a racist photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page surfaced and he acknowledged wearing blackface in the 1980s. Northam has also defied calls from practically his entire party to step down.

Saturday capped an astonishing week in Virginia politics that saw all three of the state’s top elected officials embroiled in potentially career-ending scandals, and the state Democratic Party on the verge of collapse.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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