The FBI recently conducted interviews on the origin of the sexual assault allegations made in 2019 against Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, according to Fairfax and several other people who said they were interviewed.
Fairfax, who said he met for several hours with the FBI in early June, welcomed the investigation.
The 43-year-old Democratic attorney, who left public office in January, has consistently denied assault allegations against him, which did not result in criminal charges, and has long called on law enforcement to investigate. He maintains that he had consensual meetings with the women who accused him of assault and insisted that their complaints against him were part of a politically motivated smear campaign.
Three other people confirmed to The Associated Press that they were interviewed, insisting on anonymity to discuss what they and Fairfax believe is an ongoing investigation. A fourth person familiar with the matter who also insisted on anonymity confirmed that Fairfax was interviewed. This person was not among those interviewed.
Dee Rybiski, a Richmond-based FBI spokeswoman, declined to comment. The FBI generally neither confirms nor denies the existence of investigations.
The allegations against Fairfax surfaced publicly in February 2019 when he appeared set to become governor of Virginia due to a scandal that erupted over a racist photo of the then-governor. Ralph Northam’s yearbook page. As Northam faced near-unanimous calls to resign, Fairfax was reportedly elevated to the post. But then two women within days of each other accused him of assault in 2004 and rape in 2000, prompting Fairfax’s resignation and easing the pressure on Northam. Both men eventually completed their terms.
Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor and civilian attorney, said he has been in “continuous” contact with the FBI since February 2019, providing evidence of what he has long claimed was a coordinated effort to keep him from becoming governor. News of his interviews and others was first reported by The Intercept.
Fairfax has claimed for years – without proof – that former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and his close ally, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, played a role in exposing the allegations, which McAuliffe and Stoney called absurd . Fairfax points in part to the connections between a former adviser to Stoney and one of his accusers. Fairfax was once considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, and he ran against McAuliffe and three others for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination last year; Stoney is also widely seen as a contender for higher office.
Fairfax said the FBI did not disclose the full extent of its apparent investigation, but asked her about her concerns.
Stoney told a press conference on Wednesday that the FBI had not contacted him or anyone in his “operation.” Stoney said he believed the women’s claims, called the notion he was involved in a smear campaign “ridiculous” and added that the only one talking about the FBI was Fairfax.
“These are allegations from an individual who was ultimately charged with rape,” he said.
Jake Rubenstein, a spokesperson for McAuliffe, said McAuliffe “knows none of this. Period.”
The women’s lawyers, Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, have defended their clients and criticized the idea that the FBI might investigate.
Watson’s attorney Nancy Erika Smith said in a statement: “If it’s true that the FBI is investigating two victims of Justin Fairfax, shame on the FBI. This latest abuse is obviously at the behest of Fairfax and its political benefactors and public relations team.
Debra Katz, attorney for Vanessa Tyson, said neither she nor Tyson had been contacted by the FBI. She said she would be “shocked” if there was “a real FBI investigation” and suggested Fairfax was trying to weaponize the suggestion.
The Associated Press doesn’t usually name people who claim to be victims of sexual assault, but both women have publicly aired their allegations against Fairfax.
Tyson said Fairfax — at the time a Columbia Law School student serving as an aide to Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards — forced her to perform oral sex in her hotel room during the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004. Two days after Tyson’s statement, Watson released his own, accusing Fairfax of raping her in 2000, when they were students at Duke University.
Fairfax said that in the case of her encounter with Watson, an eyewitness was present in the room. This person has not responded to repeated interview requests from the AP and has not spoken publicly to confirm or deny Fairfax’s claim.
Watson and his lawyer declined to say whether a third person was in the room.
A person who described being questioned by the FBI in early July was asked if they had ever heard of money-swapping in connection with the allegations, the person said.
The person had heard of something similar and reported it to a Fairfax spokesperson at the time. The person, who is not close to Fairfax, has no direct knowledge of the payments and doubts the person who made the comment did either, the person said.
A second respondent was asked if they had any information about the mayor’s office’s ties to women or any payments to women, the person said.
The third interviewee described being asked similar questions and provided the AP with a copy of an apparent email exchange with the FBI.
Separately, Tommy Bennett, president of the Danville branch of the NAACP, told the Post that the FBI contacted him to ask about the allegations.
Fairfax completed his term as lieutenant governor — a mostly ceremonial role that involves presiding over the state Senate — in January. He got about 4% of the vote in last year’s Democratic primary. McAuliffe won that contest and then lost the general election to Republican Glenn Youngkin.
Associated Press reporter Eric Tucker reported from Washington.
The Independent Gt