Attorney says unnamed witness can corroborate Virginia lieutenant governor’s story in rape allegation
RICHMOND, Va. — The attorney for Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax claims there is someone who can corroborate that a sexual encounter between Fairfax and Meredith Watson back in 2000 was consensual.
Meredith Watson claims that Fairfax raped her during their time as students at Duke University 19 years ago.
On Tuesday, in a letter to a prosecutor, Virginia lawyer Barry Pollack said that a person who knew Fairfax at the time has “stated unequivocally that Ms. Watson’s allegation that she was raped or otherwise sexually assaulted by Mr. Fairfax is false.” Pollack does not identify the witness, but says that he lived in the house associated with the fraternity in which Fairfax was a member.
“The eyewitness corroborates that Ms. Watson was a willing participant in sexual activity,” Pollack wrote in the letter dated July 9 to the district attorney’s office in Durham County, North Carolina.
In the letter, it is unclear whether the man actually witnessed the sexual encounter. When contacted by CNN for clarity, Pollack said, “I am not interested in going into details publicly.”
Watson has previously said that she and Fairfax had been friends in college, but that they never dated or had any romantic relationship. She alleges that the incident took place while they were both students at Duke University, but she has not said publicly where the alleged rape took place.
Fairfax was president of Alpha Phi Alpha when he was at Duke. In his letter, Pollack told District Attorney Satana Deberry he would share the witness’ identity with her.
On Wednesday, the attorney for Watson accused Fairfax of changing his story and called on the lieutenant governor and the “secret witness” to testify under oath.
“Five months after being accused of rape, Justin Fairfax changes his story yet again. First it didn’t happen, then it was consensual, and now for the first time he implicates his buddy as a participant,” Watson’s attorney Nancy Erika Smith said in a statement.
“If Justin Fairfax wants the truth to come out, this secret witness should testify under oath, in public, along with Mr. Fairfax, both his victims and their witnesses,” Smith added. “Fairfax continues to fight a public hearing tooth and nail. That says it all.”
In his letter on Wednesday, Pollack said the witness saw Watson initiate a sexual encounter.
“The eyewitness observed Ms. Watson initiate a sexual encounter with Mr. Fairfax in the eyewitness’ room. The eyewitness remained with Ms. Watson after Ms. Watson’s sexual encounter with Mr. Fairfax had concluded and Mr. Fairfax had left,” Pollack wrote.
According to Pollack, no one involved had been using drugs or alcohol and that Fairfax’s friend “recalls the events clearly.”
The Durham district attorney’s office confirmed that Deberry received the letter but would not give any additional comment.
In February, Watson became the second woman to accuse Fairfax of sexual assault. Her legal counsel said they are in possession of emails and Facebook messages Watson sent to friends and statements from former classmates corroborating that Watson immediately told friends of the alleged rape.
Vanessa Tyson, a professor in California, accused Fairfax of sexual assault during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Fairfax has denied both allegations and called for an investigation into the accusations.
The allegations emerged as Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam was embroiled in a blackface scandal and facing calls to resign, which would have left Fairfax in charge.
Pollack sent a letter in June to Deberry along with the district attorney in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, formally requesting that their offices open criminal investigations into the allegations against Fairfax.
“Mr. Fairfax knows that Ms. Watson’s allegation is utterly and demonstrably false,” Pollack wrote in his letter Tuesday. “However, he believes that allegations of sexual assault must be taken seriously and should be investigated.”
Both Watson and Tyson have resisted formally requesting a criminal investigation into their claims and have stopped short of pressing charges against Fairfax. The two women both prefer the matter be handled by the Virginia General Assembly and have said they would be willing to testify publicly in a bipartisan hearing.
A spokeswoman for Fairfax, Lauren Burke, said in a statement Wednesday that a “large number of Duke alum expressing support” had contacted the lieutenant governor’s office in the days and weeks after Watson’s allegation went public in early February.
Burke said that a General Assembly hearing “will not get to the truth in the matter of this false allegation.”
“A law enforcement investigation will. If Ms. Watson wants to talk under oath on this…she can do so with law enforcement officials in Durham,” Burke said in a statement Wednesday.