Attorneys for Fairfax’s accusers respond to sexual assault investigation request


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The attorneys for the two women accusing Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, released statements on Thursday in response to the letters Fairfax’s legal team sent to prosecutors in Boston and Durham the day before.

In the letters, Lt. Gov. Fairfax’s lawyer asked both district attorney’s office to open criminal investigations into the separate allegations. The letters were sent, according to Fairfax’s attorney, in order “to expedite the process” and provide “necessary background.”   

“If an investigation were to determine that the allegation is true, it should be criminally prosecuted,” Fairfax’s attorney wrote in each letter. “Conversely, if an investigation were to determine that the allegation is false, which Lt. Governor Fairfax is confident would be the conclusion of any unbiased and professional investigation, the matter should be closed and the public informed.”

Dr. Tyson, the first woman to publicly accuse the lieutenant governor of sexual assault, claims that in 2004 Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex in a hotel room while they were both at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Dr. Tyson’s attorneys, Debra S. Katz and Lisa J. Banks, called Fairfax’s letter to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office “another political stunt” on Thursday.

The full statement from Dr. Tyson’s lawyers can be read below:

Lieutenant Governor Fairfax’s letter to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office is another political stunt that shows his lack of respect for survivors of sexual violence.  As a former prosecutor, the Lieutenant Governor certainly knows that potential targets of criminal investigations do not get to direct prosecutorial decisions.  Like the bogus demand he made in February 2019 for the FBI to investigate Dr. Vanessa Tyson’s sexual assault allegations against him, Lieutenant Government Fairfax knows full well that his demands that the District Attorney take action will go unanswered.  Despite his protestations about the unfairness of litigating such serious allegations in the press, his letter’s distorted presentation of facts is intended to do just that.

We also note that on February 14, 2019, Lieutenant Governor’s spokesperson threatened that Mr. Fairfax would file his own criminal complaint against Dr. Tyson if she pressed criminal charges against him in Massachusetts.  That threat, like others he has conveyed to sue Dr. Tyson, will not deter her from doing what’s right, but have undoubtedly been leveled by Mr. Fairfax to deter others from coming forward.  His letter to the District Attorney appears intended to do the same and is a crude effort to deny agency to survivors of sexual violence.  His suggestion that women are liars unless they press criminal charges against their assailants places an unfair demand on survivors and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the criminal justice system.  Pursuing criminal charges is a weighty decision that the vast majority of survivors choose not to make for legitimate reasons.  Lieutenant Governor Fairfax would force survivors to rely on the criminal justice system to defend their credibility, or else remain silent about the trauma they have experienced.

The criminal justice system is not the only way government officials like Lieutenant Governor Fairfax can be held accountable for their actions.  The Virginia General Assembly has its own independent responsibility to ensure that Virginia’s leaders have the character and temperament to represent the Commonwealth.  Lieutenant Governor Fairfax’s letter shows yet again that he is not deserving of his position of power.”

                                                            -Attorneys for Vanessa Tyson 

The attorney for Meredith Watson, the second woman accusing Fairfax with sexual assault, also shared a response to the letters. In the statement, Watson’s lawyer doubts Lt. Gov. Fairfax’s desire for “the public to know the truth,” claiming if Fairfax did, he would have welcomed a public hearing in the Virginia legislature.

“All parties will testify under oath and present witnesses. That is the last thing in the world Fairfax wants and he has fought it at every turn,” Nancy Erika Smith, Watson’s attorney, wrote. You can read the full statement from Smith here.    

Smith continues by calling Fairfax’s claim that Ms. Watson engaged in blackmail as “defamatory.” A spokesperson for Fairfax, Lauren Burke, told 8News on Thursday that “no one has threatened anyone.”

“The Lt. Governor stands willing to speak with law enforcement professionals in Boston at any time. We wonder why his accusers won’t do the same given the seriousness of these matters,” Burke continued.  

Despite an invitation from House Republicans for all parties to testify, Virginia lawmakers are at odds over a bipartisan hearing into the sexual assault allegations. 

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