- TheBL.com - https://thebl.com -

2nd woman accuses Virginia official of sexual assault

A second woman accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault Friday, saying the Democrat raped her 19 years ago while they were both students at Duke University.

A lawyer for Meredith Watson, 39, said in a statement that Fairfax had attacked Watson in 2000. The statement described the assault as “premeditated and aggressive,” and noted that while Watson and Fairfax had been social friends, they were never involved romantically.

The lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, said her team had statements from former classmates who said Watson had “immediately” told friends that Fairfax had raped her. A New Jersey public relations firm representing Watson provided The Associated Press with a 2016 email exchange with a female friend and 2017 text exchanges in which Watson said Fairfax had raped her. She also expressed dismay about his run for political office.

Watson’s representatives declined to provide further documentation and said their client would not be talking to journalists.

Fairfax swiftly issued a statement saying he would not resign from office. He vowed to clear his name against what he described as a “vicious and coordinated smear campaign” being orchestrated against him.

“I deny this latest unsubstantiated allegation,” the embattled Democrat said. “It is demonstrably false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever. I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations. Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth.”

Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said the university’s police department has no criminal reports naming or involving Fairfax. Any accusation that may have been made through the student disciplinary process would be protected by student privacy laws, and Schoenfeld said the university could not comment or release any further information.

Police officials in Durham, North Carolina, where Duke is, said they were searching records for any reports involving Watson or Fairfax.

The new accusation comes after two days after Vanessa Tyson, a 42-year-old political science professor, publicly accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in a Boston hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Tyson says Fairfaix , then a law student working as an aide to Democratic vice-presidential nominee John Edwards, held her head down and forced her to perform oral sex.

The accusations against Fairfax rocked an administration that was already struggling amid calls for the resignation of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam over a racist photo that appeared on his 1984 medical school yearbook page. Fairfax, who would be in line to become governor if Northam resigned, says his sexual encounter with Tyson was consensual and questioned why she waited so long to come forward.

Watson’s lawyer said the circumstances of the alleged assault in 2000 were similar to what Tyson had described happening four years later, but declined through a spokesman to provide further details.

“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, according to the written 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.”

Smith added that Watson also hopes Fairfax will resign his elected position.

Following news of a second accuser against Fairfax, a chorus of high profile Democrats issued calls for him to step down.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, immediately called on Fairfax to resign, citing “multiple detailed allegations” that are “deeply troubling.” Another Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, called details of the second woman’s claims “sickening and horrendous” and also called on Fairfax to step down.

And several members of the state’s congressional delegation, both black and white, also said Fairfax can no longer serve in the office.

___