Virginia Lt. Gov. wants Durham to examine accusations against him

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax wants Durham County’s district attorney to conduct a criminal investigation regarding Meredith Watson’s accusation that he raped her while they were Duke University students 19 years ago.

Barry Pollack, Fairfax’s attorney, sent a letter dated Wednesday, June 12, to District Attorney Satana Deberry, saying he had been trying unsuccessfully for two months to contact her regarding the case.

“Ms. Watson’s allegation should be promptly and fully investigated,” Pollack wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the News & Observer. “If an investigation were to determine that the allegation is true, it should be criminally prosecuted. Conversely, if an investigation were to determine that the allegation is false, which Lt. Governor Fairfax is confident would be the conclusion of any unbiased and professional investigation, the matter should be closed and the public informed.”

The Durham district attorney’s office confirmed that Deberry received the letter from Pollack. Deberry declined to comment, according to Sarah Willets, a communications specialist for Deberry’s office.

In February, Watson accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her at a campus fraternity house when they were Duke undergrads in 2000. Fairfax denies the allegation, saying the incident was consensual.

Pollack repeated his denial in the letter to Deberry and also included polygraph test results from a March 29 exam that show Fairfax was truthful in saying he and Watson never engaged in any non-consensual sexual activity.

Nancy Erika Smith, Watson’s attorney, said in a statement that Fairfax’s use of the polygraph results is “an insult to the public” since the highest court in Virginia has ruled that lie detector tests are unreliable.

Watson and Vanessa Tyson both have accused Fairfax of raping them. Pollack also sent a letter to Boston prosecutors asking that they investigate Tyson’s accusation.

In April, both women asked the Virginia legislature to hold public hearings to investigate their accusations. Hearings have not been scheduled.

“If Justin Fairfax wanted the public to know the truth, he would have welcomed the hearing in the Virginia legislature requested by Ms. Tyson & Ms. Watson,” Smith said in her statement. “All parties will testify under oath and present witnesses. That is the last thing in the world Fairfax wants, and he has fought it at every turn.”

Watson also accused former Duke basketball player Corey Maggette of raping her while they were at Duke. Maggette denies that allegation. No criminal complaint was filed in either case.

Watson said Fairfax sexually assaulted her after she had confided in him about the Maggette situation. She said Fairfax told her he knew he could get away with raping her because she would be afraid to file a second incident of rape.

An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.