Virginia black caucus, Dem lawmakers call for Justin Fairfax to step down after new sexual assault accusation

 

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has lost key support from state Democratic lawmakers and the black caucus in his bid to remain in office following a second allegation of sexual assault.

One state legislator, Patrick Hope, a Democrat, has vowed to begin impeachment proceedings on Monday if Fairfax does not step down immediately.

Fairfax, one of three top Virginia Democrats embroiled in political scandal, said Friday he would not resign and demanded an investigation into the claims.

“I will clear my good name and I have nothing to hide. I have passed two full field background checks by the FBI and run for office in two highly contested elections with nothing like this being raised before,” Fairfax said in a statement. “It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me.”

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, which stood by the 39-year-old African American following the first accusation, said in a statement late Friday that “it is best for Lt. Governor Fairfax to step down from his position.”

While the group said it believes in due process,”we can’t see it in the best interest of the Commonwealth of Virginia for (Fairfax) to remain in his role.”

Likewise, Democrats in Virginia’s state House and Senate dropped their initial wait-and-see attitude and called in a joint statement for Fairfax to resign.

In addition, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Democrat, called for the lieutenant governor’s resignation, as have six of the state’s seven Democratic U.S. House members.

The firestorm around Fairfax follows a tumultuous week in Virginia  politics, with Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, first acknowledging then denying that he appeared in a photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook that showed a man in blackface standing by a man dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. He did acknowledge using blackface in impersonating Michael Jackson in a dance contest that same year.

He has refused widespread calls for his resignation.

Shortly after the first accusation surfaced against Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, a 57-year-old Democrat, volunteered that he had appeared in blackface at a party at the University of Virginia in the 1980s.

In the latest allegation against Fairfax, Meredith Watson said in a statement through her lawyers that Fairfax raped her while they were students at Duke University in 2000.

The accusation follows a previous claim by a one-time colleague, Vanessa Tyson, who accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex in a hotel room during the 2004 Democratic national convention in Boston. Fairfax denied the charge of sexual assault, calling his sexual encounter with Tyson consensual.

In a statement Friday, Watson’s lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, said Fairfax and her client were friends in college but didn’t date. Watson told her friends at the time that Fairfax raped her and has provided her lawyers with emails and Facebook messages detailing her account of the rape, Smith said.

After Fairfax’s strong denial of the charges as part of a smear campaign, Watson’s attorney issued a second statement pushing back on Fairfax’s denial.

In college, Watson went to Fairfax after she had been previously raped by someone else, Smith said. Later, after Fairfax allegedly raped Watson, they had an interaction outside a campus party, Smith said.

“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.’ Mr. Fairfax actually used the prior rape of his ‘friend’ against her when he chose to rape her in a premeditated way,” Smith said in the second statement.

Duke campus police have no criminal reports naming Fairfax, university spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said. Durham police spokesman Will Glenn also said he couldn’t find a report in the department’s system on the 2000 allegation.

Kaneedreck Adams, 40, told The Washington Post that Watson told her at Duke in spring 2000 that Fairfax raped her at a fraternity house.

“She said she couldn’t speak, but she was trying to get up and he kept pushing her down,” Adams, who reportedly lived across from Watson, told the newspaper. “She said he knew that she didn’t like what was happening, but he kept pushing her down.”

Adams described Fairfax, who was a year ahead of them in school, as a “nice sweet charming guy.”

“We all knew he wanted to be in politics,” she told the Post. “He had a reputation for being very friendly. Some of my friends, we called him sunshine.”

The Post also reported that Watson emailed Milagros Joye Brown, a college friend, in 2016 as Brown invited former classmates to a fundraiser for Fairfax’s lieutenant governor bid.

“Molly, Justin raped me in college and I don’t want to hear anything about him. Please, please, please remove me form any future emails about him please,” Watson reportedly wrote in the Oct. 26, 2016 email.

Contributing: A.J. Perez, Ryan W. Miller and Christal Hayes

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Virginia black caucus, Dem lawmakers call for Justin Fairfax to step down after new sexual assault accusation

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