The independent news organization of Duke University

Meredith Watson says she will testify against Va. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax in planned public hearings

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Meredith Watson, Trinity ‘01, became the second woman to accuse Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Trinity ‘00, of sexual assault on Feb. 8. 

Friday, Watson's attorney issued a statement saying that she would publicly testify against Fairfax in hearings being planned by Republicans in the state legislature. 

“Meredith Watson is gratified that the Virginia General Assembly has announced their intention to hold hearings, and she looks forward to testifying at this forum,” wrote Nancy Erika Smith, the attorney representing Watson, in a news release Friday afternoon.

Virginia Republicans plan to invite the two accusers and Fairfax to testify, according to the Washington Post. Delegate Rob Bell said on Friday that the House Courts of Justice Committee would schedule a hearing on an unspecified date, the Washington Post reported.

“It is our understanding that the hearing will be public and televised and that Ms. Watson, Dr. Tyson and Lt. Governor Fairfax will all testify under oath and be subject to the same rules and requirements, including our right to present witnesses and corroborators,” Smith wrote in the release. 

Watson was the second woman to come forward to accuse Fairfax of assault. Vanessa Tyson, a fellow at Stanford University, previously claimed that Fairfax sexually assaulted her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. 

Watson came forward shortly after Tyson, alleging that Fairfax raped her while they were both students at Duke. After Watson’s allegation came to light, Duke asked Fairfax to step down from his position on the Sanford School of Public Policy’s Board of Visitors and removed his name from the website. 

In a subsequent statement, Watson claimed she had also been raped by a men’s basketball player, which the New York Times later identified as Corey Maggette. Maggette, who played for the Blue Devils during the 1998-1999 season, has denied the allegation. 

“I have never sexually assaulted anyone in my life and I completely and categorically deny any such charge,” Maggette said in a statement reported by The New York Times when the allegation came out.

Fairfax has fiercely denied both of the accusations against him and said the encounters were consensual. He has resisted calls to step down from his post, calling for investigations into the claims, according to the Washington Post

"The Lt. Governor has consistently denied the unsubstantiated allegations against him and he has consistently requested a full, fair, independent, impartial, and non-political investigation by law enforcement," Lauren Burke, a spokesman for the lieutenant governor, wrote in a statement Friday. "Obviously this House Republican-led effort is partisan."

Burke went on to say that Fairfax is asking for a law enforcement investigation, adding that the Republicans "want to pursue this historically unprecedented course of action because the accused is a popularly elected Democrat." 

The sexual assault allegations against Fairfax arose amid other controversies surrounding Virginia state officials. Gov. Ralph Northam came under fire after a photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook page—which featured a person wearing blackface and another wearing Ku Klux Klan robes—came to light.

Although Northam apologized at first and said that he was one of the two people in the yearbook photo, he later changed his statement and denied that he was in the photo. However, he acknowledged that another time he wore blackface when dressed as Michael Jackson.

Mark Herring, Virginia’s attorney general and next in the governor’s line of succession after Fairfax, also admitted to wearing blackface in college.

Shagun Vashisth and Nathan Luzum contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This article was updated Friday night with the statement from Burke. 

Comments