State Demo­crat to ini­ti­ate ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment against Fair­fax

Lieu­tenant gover­nor de­nies sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER

RICH­MOND | A Demo­cratic state law­maker plans to in­tro­duce ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment Mon­day against Lt. Gov. Justin Fair­fax, who is ac­cused of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing two women dur­ing his 20s, stok­ing the po­lit­i­cal bon­fire con­sum­ing Vir­ginia’s Demo­cratic lead­er­ship.

De­spite mount­ing res­ig­na­tion calls from fel­low Democrats, Mr. Fair­fax ap­peared de­ter­mined to fight for his po­lit­i­cal fu­ture in po­ten­tially bru­tal hear­ings in a Gen­eral As­sem­bly where Repub­li­cans are in the ma­jor­ity.

“The one thing I want to make abun- dantly clear is that in both sit­u­a­tions I knew at the time, and I know to­day, that the in­ter­ac­tions were con­sen­sual,” Mr. Fair­fax said in a state­ment.

His re­peated claim that he did noth­ing wrong and that he was the vic­tim of a po­lit­i­cal “smear” only em­bold­ened his

ac­cusers, Vanessa Tyson and Mered­ith Wat­son, who an­nounced they would pub­licly tes­tify at im­peach­ment hear­ings.

“Ms. Wat­son stands ready, although it will be painful, to tell the Vir­ginia Leg­is­la­ture what Mr. Fair­fax did to her when she was 20 years old,” Nancy Erika Smith, Ms. Wat­son’s lawyer, said in a state­ment.

Ms. Wat­son also is con­sid­er­ing in­volv­ing po­lice in North Carolina, where the al­leged at­tack took place in 2000 and where there is no statute of lim­i­ta­tions for any felony crimes, in­clud­ing rape and sex­ual as­sault.

Del­e­gate Pa­trick Hope, a Demo­crat who rep­re­sents Ar­ling­ton, said he will in­tro­duce ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment be­cause Mr. Fair­fax “can no longer ful­fill his du­ties to the com­mon­wealth.”

“He needs to ad­dress this as a pri­vate cit­i­zen. The time has come for him to step down,” he said.

The jeop­ardy con­fronting Mr. Fair­fax, who was a 39-year-old ris­ing star in the party, is part of a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis over­tak­ing Vir­ginia’s Demo­cratic lead­er­ship. Gov. Ralph Northam and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Her­ring have been ac­cused of racism for wear­ing black­face in the 1980s. Mr. Northam is de­fy­ing his party’s calls for him to step down.

“Right now, Vir­ginia needs some­one that can heal. There’s no bet­ter per­son to do that than a doc­tor,” Mr. Northam, a physi­cian, said on CBS’s “Face the Na­tion,” later adding, “I’m not go­ing any­where.”

Democrats also are grap­pling with a suc­ces­sion scare as scan­dals are stain­ing the first per­son in the line of gu­ber­na­to­rial suc­ces­sion (Mr. Fair­fax) and the sec­ond in line (Mr. Her­ring). The next-up would be House Speaker Kirk Cox, a Repub­li­can.

Boot­ing Mr. Fair­fax from of­fice, how­ever, would give Democrats a way out. Mr. Northam would be able to name a scan­dal-free suc­ces­sor and then step down him­self.

The dis­grace tar­nish­ing the top elected of­fi­cials could sour vot­ers on Democrats in an elec­tion year in which ev­ery Gen­eral As­sem­bly seat is up for grabs, likely help­ing Repub­li­cans hold on to a thin ma­jor­ity.

A back­lash from black and fe­male vot­ers could even af­fect the 2020 elec­tions in a state that only re­cently swung from Repub­li­can to Demo­cratic.

Adding to the st­ing of racism and sex­ual as­sault ac­cu­sa­tions, the Demo­cratic can­di­date in a spe­cial elec­tion for Vir­ginia House apol­o­gized last week anti-Semitic com­ments made five years ago.

Ibra­heem Sami­rah, who was born in the U.S. but calls him­self a “sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Pales­tinian refugee,” said the of­fen­sive com­ments he wrote on Face­book were mus­ings of his col­lege mind. He said he re­grets it, apol­o­gized for adding “to the pain of the Jewish com­mu­nity” and asked for un­der­stand­ing.

Mr. Sami­rah, a den­tist, is run­ning against Repub­li­can Greg Nel­son and in­de­pen­dent can­di­date Con­nie Haines Hutchin­son in what will be the Democrats’ first test since the scan­dals be­gan to pile up.

Mr. Fair­fax’s two ac­cusers, in sep­a­rate state­ments from their sep­a­rate lawyers, said they want to pub­licly re­fute his de­nials and help force him out of of­fice.

Ms. Tyson, who was the first to come for­ward a week ago, said Mr. Fair­fax forced her to per­form oral sex on him when they met as cam­paign aides at the 2004 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Bos­ton.

Ms. Wat­son al­leged a sim­i­lar at­tack when she and Mr. Fair­fax were stu­dents at Duke Uni­ver­sity. She also says she can cor­rob­o­rate her story with doc­u­ments and wit­nesses that she told of the at­tack at the time.

Over the week­end, Mr. Fair­fax said he would fight to clear his name and that he wanted an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the women’s ac­cu­sa­tions.

“I say this again with­out reser­va­tion: I did not sex­u­ally as­sault or rape Mered­ith Wat­son, Vanessa Tyson or any­one else,” he said.

He added, “This has been a dev­as­tat­ing week for my fam­ily. It has been an es­pe­cially dev­as­tat­ing time for the great Com­mon­wealth of Vir­ginia.”

Mr. Fair­fax and wife, Ce­rina Fair­fax, have been mar­ried since 2006 and have two chil­dren.

The lieu­tenant gover­nor pre­vi­ously ac­knowl­edged hav­ing sex with Ms. Tyson, say­ing he was sin­gle, in his 20s and it was “100 per­cent con­sen­sual.” In his lat­est state­ment, he ac­knowl­edged for the first time hav­ing sex with Ms. Wat­son and claimed it too was a con­sen­sual en­counter.

“Lt. Gov. Fair­fax’s as­ser­tion that these sex­ual as­saults were con­sen­sual, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously try­ing both on and off the record to dis­credit the vic­tims, says all you need to know about his lack of fit­ness to serve in pub­lic of­fice,” said De­bra S. Katz and Lisa J. Banks, lawyers for Ms. Tyson.

Ms. Wat­son’s lawyer said Mr. Fair­fax’s re­quest of an FBI probe was a ruse.

“He knows as a for­mer prose­cu­tor, that the FBI has no ju­ris­dic­tion over this mat­ter. In­deed, my client may con­tact North Carolina au­thor­i­ties about a pos­si­ble crim­i­nal prose­cu­tion,” she said. “For real due process, not hid­den from the pub­lic, we in­vite Mr. Fair­fax to join Ms. Wat­son and her wit­nesses in tes­ti­fy­ing at an im­peach­ment hear­ing.”

Mr. Fair­fax’s re­ac­tion to the ac­cu­sa­tions has al­ter­nated be­tween heated and tem­pered.

Mr. Fair­fax re­port­edly called Ms. Wat­son a “nut” who also claimed she was raped by a Duke bas­ket­ball player.

The com­ments drew a re­buke from Ms. Wat­son’s lawyer, who added more de­tail to her client’s rape al­le­ga­tions.

“Ms. Wat­son was raped by a bas­ket­ball player dur­ing her sopho­more year at Duke. She went to the dean, who pro­vided no help and dis­cour­aged her from pur­su­ing the claim fur­ther. Ms. Wat­son also told friends, in­clud­ing Justin Fair­fax,” Ms. Smith said.

She said Mr. Fair­fax then used the bas­ket­ball player rape against Ms. Wat­son dur­ing the only en­counter she had with the fu­ture lieu­tenant gover­nor af­ter he as­saulted her.

“She left a cam­pus party when he ar­rived, and he fol­lowed her out. She turned and asked: ‘Why did you do it?’ Mr. Fair­fax an­swered: ‘I knew that be­cause of what hap­pened to you last year, you’d be too afraid to say any­thing,’” ac­cord­ing to the ac­count pro­vided by Ms. Smith.

“Like he is smear­ing Dr. Vanessa Tyson, Mr. Fair­fax is now smear­ing Ms. Wat­son. That’s shame­ful,” said Ms. Smith. “The smears on vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault have to stop. Why would any woman come for­ward with in­for­ma­tion about a pow­er­ful man know­ing that he and his sup­port­ers will stop at noth­ing to smear and dis­credit them? Women come for­ward to sup­port one another and to stop the cul­ture of rape that is even more per­va­sive than we ac­knowl­edge.”



“I say this again with­out reser­va­tion: I did not sex­u­ally as­sault or rape Mered­ith Wat­son, Vanessa Tyson or any­one else,” Vir­ginia Lt. Gov Justin Fair­fax said.

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