While denying sexual assault allegations, Virginia lieutenant governor leaves law firm

With state Republican lawmakers calling for hearings to begin next week into sexual assault allegations against him, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is resigning from his job at the law firm that employed him since last year.

The Associated Press and other news outlets reported Monday that Fairfax, a Duke University graduate, decided to leave Morrison & Foerster even though its internal investigation uncovered no evidence of any misconduct during the time it employed him.

Fairfax has been on leave from Morrison & Foerster since February, when two women accused him of sexually assaulting them in 2000 and 2004. One of the accusers, Meredith Watson, said Fairfax attacked her while they were Duke undergrads 19 years ago.

Both Watson and her fellow accuser, Vanessa Tyson, have requested that Virginia’s General Assembly conduct hearings into their allegations.

Fairfax denies sexually assaulting either woman, saying his encounters with both were consensual.

In a statement published by the National Law Journal on Monday, Fairfax said he is leaving Morrison & Foerster to turn his full attention to his duties as Virginia’s lieutenant governor.

“The allegations by Ms. Watson and Dr. Tyson are false and totally inconsistent with how I have lived my entire life,” Fairfax said in the statement. “It has been an honor to be affiliated with such a distinguished firm as Morrison & Foerster and I wanted to allow them to conclude their investigation before announcing my departure from the firm. But with that process completed, I have decided that, at the present time, it is best for me to focus my attention on serving the people of Virginia.”

Last month, Fairfax and his attorney, Barry Pollack, called for law enforcement officials in Durham and Massachusetts — where the women say the assaults occurred — as well as Virginia to investigate the claims against him believing they would clear his name.

So far, no investigations have begun.

Democratic lawmakers in Virginia have stalled any movement toward the state’s General Assembly opening hearings against Fairfax. The state’s Republican lawmakers would like those hearings to begin next week.

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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.