Eyewitness would clear Va. lieutenant governor in N. Carolina sex assault allegation, says lawyer

An eyewitness would clear Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault allegations made by a woman who claims she was raped by Fairfax in 2000, while both were college students at Duke University, according to his lawyer.

Barry Pollack, Fairfax’s attorney, disclosed in a letter to Durham County, North Carolina, District Attorney Satana Deberry that “there was an eyewitness to the events underlying Ms. [Meredith] Watson’s allegation,” and that the eyewitness “has stated unequivocally that Ms. Watson’s allegation that she was raped or otherwise sexually assaulted by Mr. Fairfax is false.”

Watson, who lives in the Baltimore suburbs, became the second woman to accuse Fairfax of assault. In February, Vanessa Tyson accused Fairfax of assaulting her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Pollack sent letters to district attorneys in North Carolina, Massachusetts and Virginia, asking each to investigate the allegations. None has responded.

In a letter Tuesday to Deberry, obtained by WTOP, Pollack said, “It is very disappointing that I have not received a response to the numerous telephone messages I have left with you.”

Pollack said he has also sent a letter to Deberry, and his client has wanted “to protect the privacy of the accuser, the accused and others with potentially relevant information by not disclosing sensitive information.”

Pollack said the lack of response has forced him to convey information by letter “that I would prefer to be able to discuss in person.”

In the Spring of 2000, Ms. Watson came over to a fraternity house on campus where the eyewitness lived. Mr. Fairfax, a member of the fraternity who did not live in the fraternity house at the time, was there visiting an eyewitness when Ms. Watson arrived. 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.

According to the letter from Pollack, the eyewitness has shared his recollections with a number of people, and Fairfax could provide the identity of those people.

The eyewitness has told those individuals that he can say definitively that Ms. Watson was not raped or sexually assaulted by Mr. Fairfax in any way, as Mr. Fairfax knows, and has said all along. The eyewitness corroborates that Ms. Watson was a willing participant in sexual activity. No one had been using drugs or alcohol, and Ms. Watson initiated sexual contact with Mr. Fairfax and unambiguously manifested her consent to the sexual contact that occurred. Her behavior throughout was utterly inconsistent with her present claim that she was raped or otherwise sexually assaulted by Mr. Fairfax.

Just over a week ago, Fairfax resigned from the law firm Morrison & Foerster, where he had been on leave since February, amid the allegations.

In a statement, Watson’s attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, disputed Fairfax’s story:

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. 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. Fairfax continues to fight a public hearing tooth and nail. That says it all.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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