By Brooke Singman, Alex Pappas
Published February 21, 2019
The legal team for one of the two women accusing Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault blasted the state General Assembly for not addressing the allegations, calling for an investigation into the matter “immediately” before the legislature adjourns on Friday.
Lawyers for Vanessa Tyson, who alleged that Fairfax sexually assaulted her in July 2004 during the Democratic National Convention in Boston, ripped lawmakers for having “remained silent” and taking “no action whatsoever” in response to her allegations.
“It is unfathomable that the Virginia General Assembly appears intent on ending its current session without addressing this issue in any meaningful way,” Tyson’s attorney Debra Katz said in a statement Thursday. “We call on the General Assembly to hire experienced independent investigators to conduct a prompt and thorough inquiry of these matters. Credible allegations of sexual assault must not be ignored.”
The pressure on state lawmakers comes after Fairfax's second accuser, Meredith Watson, and her legal team also blasted state lawmakers for not proceeding with public hearings on the allegations.
“Apparently, the Virginia House Democratic Caucus believes that courageous victims of rape need to be heard—just not by them,” attorney Nancy Erika Smith said Wednesday. “Ms. Watson is counting on the General Assembly to do the right thing and hold hearings now. These nonstop efforts to duck their role is pure cowardice. Sympathy is welcome, but action is needed.”
Fairfax has vehemently denied the allegations.
On Tuesday, the Virginia House Democratic Caucus reiterated calls for Fairfax to resign, but said they “believe that the law enforcement investigation should proceed unencumbered and outside of the political arena.”
“Ms. Watson & Dr. Tyson are courageous in coming forward to tell their stories. We respect all survivors and believe they should be fully heard. The allegations they have made against Lt Gov Fairfax are criminal in nature and we are treating them with the seriousness they deserve,” the statement from the Democrats said.
Tyson’s legal team noted that she has “made clear that she is willing to cooperate in any investigation” by the Assembly and the Suffolk County District Attorney — which has jurisdiction over the alleged incident — to “ensure that Lt. Gov. Fairfax is held accountable for his actions.”
Last week, the district attorney’s office offered to hear from Tyson, saying in a statement that the office’s “resources” were available to her.
The statute of limitations for such an alleged crime in Massachusetts would expire later this year.
Meanwhile, Republicans signaled they would like to see the legislature conduct a hearing.
“It’s becoming more compelling that a legislative forum should be seriously considered,” House Speaker Kirk Cox said. “We are actively working to develop that process and hope our Democrat colleagues will work with us moving forward.”
Earlier this week, Watson wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece that she was "frustrated by calls for an investigation rather than a public hearing" into the allegations brought against Fairfax by her and Vanessa Tyson.
"Such 'investigations' are secret proceedings, out of the public eye, leaving victims vulnerable to selective leaks and smears. And we all know how such investigations end: with 'inconclusive results,'" Watson wrote. "My privacy has already been violated, yet I am still willing to testify publicly under oath. Tyson has made the same offer. Our plea to the Virginia General Assembly to require the same of Fairfax has been met with inaction."
Fairfax has said that the encounters with Watson and Tyson were consensual and suggested that both women's accusations are part of a political smear campaign to prevent him from succeeding Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam if he's forced to resign amid a racist photo scandal.
“I have never forced myself on anyone ever,” Fairfax said in a recent statement. “I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations. Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth.”
Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain, Garrett Tenney and The Associated Press contributed to this report.