Jenna Portnoy and Gregory S. Schneider for the WASHINGTON POST wrote:
February 8 at 5:14 PM
A Maryland woman said Friday she was raped by Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) in a “premeditated and aggressive” assault in 2000, while they both were undergraduate students at Duke University. She is the second woman this week to make an accusation of sexual assault.
The woman, Meredith Watson, said Friday in a written statement through her attorney that she shared her account immediately after it happened with several classmates and friends. Watson did not speak publicly Friday and her lawyer did not make her available for an interview.
Fairfax denied the allegations forcefully.
“I deny this latest unsubstantiated allegation,” Fairfax said in a statement. “It is demonstrably false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever.”
Watson was friends with Fairfax at Duke but they never dated or had any romantic relationship, Watson’s lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, said.
“At this time, Ms. Watson is reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving in public office should be of the highest character,” Smith said in the statement . “She has no interest in becoming a media personality or reliving the trauma that has greatly affected her life. Similarly, she is not seeking any financial damages.”
Watson wants Fairfax to resign from office, Smith said.
Fairfax’s statement said he would not resign. “I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations” the statement said. “I will clear my good name and I have nothing to hide. I have passed two full field background checks by the FBI and run for office in two highly contested elections with nothing like this being raised before. “
Watson’s claim comes at the end of a turbulent week that began when a different woman, Vanessa Tyson, accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004
when both were in Boston attending the Democratic National Convention.
[Tyson has spoken for years about the sexual assault issue]
Fairfax denied that he assaulted Tyson, said he was the victim of a “smear” and has said repeatedly that they had a consensual encounter.
Smith said the details of Watson’s alleged attack are similar to those described by Tyson.
Kaneedreck Adams, 40, who attended Duke with Watson, said that in the spring of 2000, when they lived across from each other in on-campus apartments, Watson came to her crying.
“She was upset,” Adams, an attorney, said. “She told me she had been raped and she named Justin.”
“She said she couldn’t speak, but she was trying to get up and he kept pushing her down,” Adams. “She said he knew that she didn’t like what was happening, but he kept pushing her down.”
The alleged attack happened at fraternity house, Adams said.
She said both the women were friends with Fairfax, who was one year ahead of them in school. “We all knew he wanted to be in politics,” Adams said. “He had a reputation for being very friendly. Some of my friends, we called him sunshine. He was a nice sweet charming guy.”
Watson’s attorney provided an email exchange from 2016 between Watson and Milagros Joye Brown, a friend from Duke. Brown was inviting a group of Duke friends to a fundraiser for Fairfax, as he launched his campaign for lieutenant governor.
“Molly, Justin raped me in college and I don’t want to hear anything about him. Please, please, please remove me form any future emails about him please,” Watson wrote on Oct. 26, 2016.
[An isolated governor; all three officeholders under fire]
All week, Democrats and Republicans have been treading carefully regarding Tyson’s allegation, unsure what to believe because Tyson offered no corroborating evidence. Several have called for an investigation.
Watson’s claim is likely to further stoke chaos in Richmond, where one week ago, a racist photo on the 1984 medical school yearbook page of Gov. Ralph Northam (D) was unearthed, setting off calls for his resignation. On Wednesday, Attorney General Mark R. Herring disclosed that he wore blackface as part of a costume during college in 1980.
After Watson’s allegations became public Friday. former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe called for Fairfax to resign.
“The allegations against Justin Fairfax are serious and credible,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “It is clear to me that he can no longer effectively serve the people of Virginia as Lieutenant Governor. I call for his immediate resignation.” McAuliffe has similarly called for Northam’s resignation.
If Northam were to step down, Fairfax would be next in line. And he was preparing to do just that, after scandal enveloped Northam and before Tyson accused Fairfax of sexual assault.
Fairfax, a 39-year-old former federal prosecutor, has been a rising star in Democratic politics. The great-great-great-grandson of a slave, he is the second African American to hold statewide office in Virginia.
Until this week, Fairfax was best known for silently protesting
the state Senate’s annual tribute to Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Aaron C. Davis, Neena Satija, Rachel Chason, Fenit Nirappil and Samantha Schmidt contributed to this report.