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Fairfax’s Lawyers Claim Eyewitness Observed 'Unambiguous’ Consent

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM News)

A lawyer for Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax says an eyewitness will help clear the Democrat of one of two accusations of sexual assault in a letter sent to prosecutors on Tuesday.

But the letter Barry Pollack sent to Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry stops short disclosing the alleged eyewitnesses’ name or of giving many details into what happened at a Duke University fraternity house in 2000.

Meredith Watson and Justin Fairfax were students at Duke University in 2000. Fairfax says they had consensual sex. Watson says she was raped. Neither has publicly mentioned a third person before.

But in a letter sent to prosecutors on Tuesday, Pollack says one of Fairfax’s fraternity brothers saw Watson initiate the encounter in the man’s room at the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity house in Durham.

“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,” Pollack wrote in the letter.

Pollack doesn’t say how the fraternity brother can be sure Watson consented. The letter doesn’t say whether the alleged eyewitness was a spectator or participant in what happened that night. A spokesperson for Fairfax declined to elaborate or to identify the fraternity brother.

In response to Pollack’s letter, Watson’s lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, released a statement calling for a public hearing involving that included Fairfax and the alleged eyewitness.

“Fairfax continues to fight a public hearing tooth and nail,” Smith said. “That says it all.”

Fairfax says a public hearing is too political and has asked local prosecutors to investigate accusations against him.

Smith’s statement didn’t directly address whether Watson remembers a third person in the encounter. Watson did not mention a third person in her  only interview to date, with CBS’ Gayle King.

A public relations firm representing Smith declined to respond to further questions.

In the CBS interview, Watson said that Fairfax, who was a friend, “invited me over to come celebrate” the end of Fairfax’s senior year. Watson said “everything was normal” until Fairfax closed the door, turned out the light, and sexually assaulted and raped her.

Fairfax has suggested that the allegations -- and separate ones from Scripps College professor Vanessa Tyson -- are part of a politically-motivated smear campaign against him. He stood down widespread calls to resign in February and appeared alongside Democrats in the runup to Tuesday’s special session on gun violence.


Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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