- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2019

RICHMOND — Vanessa Tyson plans to meet with the district attorney’s office in Boston to report her rape allegation against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, her lawyer said Wednesday, elevating the crisis from the political to the criminal realm.

By going to law enforcement, Ms. Tyson ratchets up pressure on the lieutenant governor, who has battled an onslaught of calls for his resignation but escaped impeachment hearings by the General Assembly.

Ms. Tyson’s lawyer, Debra S. Katz, also accused Mr. Fairfax of trying to intimidate Ms. Tyson into not taking the criminal route.

“Earlier today, Lt. Gov. Fairfax’s spokeswoman issued a shocking threat, as reported by The Boston Globe, that Lt. Gov. Fairfax would initiate criminal charges against Dr. Tyson if she pressed charges against him for sexually assaulting her in 2004. This is a clear effort to obstruct justice,” Ms. Katz said.

Dr. Tyson will not be bullied and she will not be silenced by such threats,” the attorney added.

Mr. Fairfax said he welcomed any investigation.

“We have said all along we are open to a full, fair and impartial and non-political investigation of this matter that affords due process to all. We look forward to meeting the Suffolk County District Attorney should they decide to commence an investigation and will cooperate fully,” Mr. Fairfax office said in a statement.

“We know that when all accounts are heard that the truth will prevail and his name will be cleared,” it said.

Ms. Tyson, a California college professor, went public two weeks ago with allegations that Mr. Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him when they met as campaign aides at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Within days, Maryland resident Meredith Watson said she suffered a similar attack by Mr. Fairfax in 2000, when they were both students at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Formerly a rising star in the Democratic Party, Mr. Fairfax, 39, has become a pariah. He has refused to resign, vowed to clear his name and asked for an FBI investigation, though the agency likely lacks jurisdiction.

Insisting the encounters with both women were consensual, he said that he is the victim of a political “smear.”

The jeopardy facing Mr. Fairfax, who is black, is part of a political bonfire consuming the state’s Democratic leaders. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring are accused of racism after both admitted wearing blackface in the 1980s.

Mr. Northam also is fending off calls for him to resign.

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, whose jurisdiction includes Boston, sent a letter to Ms. Tyson last week saying she was ready to launch an investigation.

“We wouldn’t normally discuss a matter like this publicly, but the decision was made to self-identify and I’d be remiss if I didn’t make my office and its resources available to her — and to other survivors who might be following the case and wrestling with whether to come forward to law enforcement,” Ms. Rollins said.

After waiting in vain for the General Assembly to investigate or open impeachment proceedings, Ms. Tyson opted for the criminal process.

“As Dr. Tyson stated earlier, she will cooperate with all appropriate investigations, and awaits further word from leadership in the Virginia legislature about how it will proceed,” Ms. Katz said.

Del. Patrick Hope, Arlington Democrat, announced last week that he would file articles of impeachment, but abruptly called it off Monday, citing lack of support.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans have expressed a desire to confront Mr. Fairfax. Lawmakers in both parties argue that the General Assembly lacks resources for an investigation and that the allegations against Mr. Fairfax don’t meet the constitutional criteria for impeachment, which is limited to conduct in office.

Ms. Rollins pledged to give the rape allegation the serious attention it deserved, whether providing survivor counseling or pursuing criminal charges.

If convicted of rape in Massachusetts, Mr. Fairfax could go to prison for 20 years.

“When it comes to sexual assault, every survivor’s reaction is different. That includes their decisions about disclosing to law enforcement. What I want all survivors to know is that we’re ready, willing and able to help,” Ms. Rollins said.

Massachusetts’ 15-year statute of limitations for the crime expires in July, leaving several more months for Ms. Tyson to report it.

Ms. Watson also is considering involving authorities in North Carolina, where there is no statute of limitations for felonies, including rape.

Police officials in Durham said they have not yet received a report of the alleged crime.

The scandals have flummoxed the Democratic Party, which champions the #MeToo movement and frequently accuses Republicans of racism.

The disgrace tarnishing Virginia’s leaders hit in an election year in which every General Assembly seat is up for grabs, likely helping Republicans hold on to a thin majority.

A backlash from black and female voters could even affect the 2020 elections in a state that only recently realigned from Republican to Democrat.

To the dismay of the Democratic Party, Mr. Northam and Mr. Fairfax have vowed to tough it out for the remaining three years of their terms.

Mr. Northam’s troubles began with the emergence of his medical school yearbook in which his profile page includes a photo of a man in blackface standing with someone in Ku Klux Klan robes.

After initially apologizing and accepting responsibility for the photo, the governor called a press conference to deny he was in the photo, took part in the photo or knew it was on his page in the yearbook.

He also admitted to wearing blackface to dress as Michael Jackson for a dance contest in 1984.

Soon after, the attorney general announced that he, too, wore blackface to perform as a rap singer at a college party in 1980.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide