Virginia Lt. Gov. Fairfax says eyewitness backs up his story
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — An attorney for Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax says there’s a witness who can corroborate his story that he did not rape a woman while they were students at Duke University nearly 20 years ago.
Fairfax lawyer Barry Pollack sent a letter Tuesday to a North Carolina prosecutor saying the unnamed witness “has stated unequivocally” that the allegations made against Fairfax are false.
Once a rising star among Virginia Democrats, Fairfax has fended off widespread calls for his resignation after two women came forward in February and accused him of sexual assault.
Fairfax has said both encounters were consensual and asked prosecutors in Boston and North Carolina, where the accusers say the assaults occurred, to investigate. The women have both called for a bipartisan hearing at the Virginia General Assembly, which Fairfax and Democratic lawmakers have opposed.
Meredith Watson has said Fairfax carried out a “premeditated and aggressive assault” in a Duke fraternity house in 2000. The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Watson has come forward voluntarily.
Pollack said a witness can disprove Watson’s story.
“The eyewitness observed Ms. Watson initiate a sexual encounter with Mr. Fairfax in the eyewitness’ room,” Pollack said in his letter to Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry. “The eyewitness remained with Ms. Watson after Ms. Watson’s sexual encounter with Mr. Fairfax had concluded and Mr. Fairfax had left.”
Pollack declined to identify the witness, who he said “recalls the events clearly and has shared his recollections with a number of people.”
Pollack also said Fairfax was disappointed that Deberry’s office had not responded to his requests to meet with her office and “has not ruled out pursing other legal remedies for the severe harm that this false allegation has caused.”
Deberry declined to comment.
Watson’s attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, issued a statement challenging Fairfax to have the witness testify at the legislature.
“If Justin Fairfax wants the truth to come out, this secret witness should testify under oath, in public, along with Mr. Fairfax, both his victims and their witnesses,” Smith said. “Fairfax continues to fight a public hearing tooth and nail. That says it all.”
Fairfax has characterized the assault allegations as part of a racially motivated smear campaign intended to derail his political career, though both his accusers are African American. The allegations became public shortly after a racist photo in Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook surfaced and nearly drove the governor from office, which would have made Fairfax the governor.
Fairfax recently announced he was leaving his law firm to focus on “serving the people of Virginia.” He has also said he may run for governor in 2021.