While plans for impeachment have reportedly been put on hold, embattled Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax has been placed on leave by his law firm as they investigate the sexual assault claims.
San Francisco-based Morrison & Forester released this statement:
“We take the allegations against Justin very seriously. As a firm, we believe that it is important to seriously listen to any allegation of sexual assault or harassment, and to treat all persons making such allegations with respect and sensitivity,” the chairman of the firm, Larren Nashelsky, said.
Dr. Vanessa Tyson, a tenured professor at Scripps College, has accused Fairfax of sexual assault at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. And Meredith Watson has come forward to claim he assaulted her during spring break in 2000 at the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity house at Duke, where they were both students.
Nancy Erika Smith, one of Watson’s lawyers, said in the statement “the details of Ms. Watson’s attack are similar to those described by Dr. Vanessa Tyson.”
Smith also provided an email exchange between Watson and a friend from Duke, Milagros Joye Brown, in which she tells her friend not to include her on correspondence regarding Fairfax because he had raped her in college.
One of Watson’s college friends, Kaneedreck Adams, said in an interview with the New York Times that Watson told her she was raped the day after she said it happened, and named Fairfax as her assailant.
In an exclusive interview with The Root about the allegations, Fairfax appeared to have difficulty clearly articulating how he knew he had consent from either woman.
TR: Now lieutenant governor, I’m going to ask you a question that is foremost in the minds of many people since the initial allegations against you, and a question that many organizations across the nation have been the most concerned with. How do you know that you had consent from Dr. Vanessa Tyson? [Dr. Vanessa Tyson alleges that at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston she entered a hotel room on the secure candidate floor with Justin Fairfax, who at the time worked on the John Kerry campaign. Her charge is that while she initially consented to kissing and touching that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex. She states that she was visibly upset and after the encounter never interacted with Justin Fairfax again.]
JF: I’m very confident that the entire encounter was consensual. We’re looking forward to the independent investigation to explore the facts, and assess various factors involved. Those reviews will support what I know is the truth. That I never sexually assaulted Dr. Tyson.
TR: I ask the same question about the second allegation. How did you know you had consent from Meredith Watson?
JF: I’m likewise very confident in the truth that the entire encounter with Ms. Watson was consensual. Neither that night nor other times I saw her on campus did she give me the impression that it was anything but consensual. We are fully co-operating with investigators who are assessing the situations and we’re sure that they will once again confirm the truth, that I never raped Ms. Watson.
TR: So you’re saying at no point in either of these encounters did anyone tell you no or physically reject you?
Calls to Resign
A group of activists have called for Fairfax and three other Virginia politicians to step down from their posts after blackface pictures emerged.
On Sunday, about 30 protesters gathered at the site of Lumpkin’s Slave Jail in Shockoe Bottom, sending a message that Virginia has a troubling past that is evident still today, the Richmond Times Dispatch reports.
The event called “Leading Virginia Forward,” was led by local activist Chelsea Higgs Wise and organized by RVA Dirt.
The list of prominent Democrats who have said Fairfax must step down includes former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris, all 2020 presidential candidates.