Virginia Lt. Gov Justin Fairfax calls for an investigation to resolve sexual assault allegations

Letters were sent to prosecutors in North Carolina and Massachusetts.

June 13, 2019, 7:06 PM

A lawyer for Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is calling on prosecutors to make a determination over the sexual assault allegations made against Fairfax earlier this year -- marking the latest effort to remove the cloud of suspicion that has hobbled his political ascent.

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax presides over the end of the 2019 Senate session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Feb. 24, 2019.
Steve Helber/AP, FILE

Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Fairfax, sent letters on Wednesday to prosecutors in Durham County, North Carolina, and Suffolk County, Mass., and called for the allegations against Fairfax to be “promptly and fully investigated.”

“If an investigation were to determine that the allegation is true, it should be criminally prosecuted," Pollack said in the letters, which were obtained by ABC News affiliate WRIC. "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."

Prosecutors have not publicly responded to the request, but lawyers for the accusers swiftly issued statements calling Fairfax's request a political stunt.

In February, two women, Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, came forward to accuse Fairfax of sexual assault.

Tyson claims Fairfax assaulted her in 2004 when they were both working at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Watson has accused Fairfax of raping her in 2000 when they were both students at Duke University.

Fairfax has vehemently denied the accusations.

The allegations were first made when Fairfax, who was elected lieutenant governor in 2017, seemed destined to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. A fellow Democrat, Northam came under scrutiny in February when photos on his 1984 yearbook page from Eastern Virginia Medical School emerged showing two men, one in a full Ku Klux Klan robe and hood and another in blackface.

Northam has rejected calls for his resignation, as has Fairfax.

"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," lawyers for Tyson, Debra S. Katz and Lisa J. Banks, said in a statement. "As a former prosecutor, the Lieutenant Governor certainly knows that potential targets of criminal investigations do not get to direct prosecutorial decisions."

They added, "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."

Nancy Erika Smith, a lawyer for Watson, also released a statement in response to the letters.

"Of course, Fairfax wants a secret, months- or years-long criminal investigation that he will use as an excuse not to answer any questions in public," Smith said. "He says he wants due process, but a hearing is due process. He still refuses to answer questions – as both accusers have done. Instead, he has his lawyers issue letters full of false and defamatory claims"

This is not the first time Fairfax has called for an investigation into these accusations, which he has said would result in “clearing my good name.” He has called on the FBI to investigate the claims by both women.

"I am asking that no one rush to judgment and I am asking for there to be space in this moment for due process," Fairfax said in a statement in February. "Consequently, I call on all appropriate and impartial investigatory authorities, including the FBI, to investigate fully and thoroughly the allegations against me by Ms. Watson and Dr. Tyson.