A clever ploy from Justin Fairfax in one sense, but not without its risks. Virginia’s embattled lieutenant governor has remained stuck in political limbo for months, refusing to step down after being accused of sexual assault by two women, with the charges still hanging over his head. Yesterday, Fairfax’s attorneys demanded a police investigation into the charges in order to either move forward with prosecution or close the cases altogether.
Rolling the dice? Well, they’re a little loaded:
His legal team sent letters to both the Suffolk County and Durham County district attorney offices saying the allegations by Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson should be “promptly and fully” investigated.
According to the letters, it says Fairfax is prepared to be interviewed by both and provide testimony under oath in regards to claims made.
So what’s the catch? The allegation of rape in Suffolk County, Massachusetts says that the assault took place at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The statute of limitations for prosecution of rape charges is 15 years, and six years for lesser sexual assault charges. Police would have less than three months to open an investigation and develop a case well enough for prosecutors to get an indictment for rape; any lesser charge would already be years past the statute of limitations deadline. It’s almost impossible for Vanessa Tyson to get that kind of justice now, even assuming the allegation is true.
What about the allegation in North Carolina? That allegation goes back to 2000, when Fairfax and the accuser both attended Duke. That’s a more risky move for Fairfax, as North Carolina has no statutes of limitation on felony sex crimes. A Durham County prosecutor looking to make a big case might very well file charges against Fairfax, assuming they can get any evidence beyond the he-said, she-said that has already been made public.
What does this tell us? For one thing, it means that Fairfax still wants to avoid the kind of due process that could actually work — a legislative hearing on the allegations. Back in February, fellow Democrat Patrick Hope declared it the only legitimate and realistic option left, especially with the legislature’s burden of oversight:
The alleged crimes committed by LG Fairfax took place in Massachusetts and North Carolina. The impeachment process is the only way for Virginia to have the investigation that LG Fairfax has demanded.
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) February 9, 2019
If Fairfax really wants his day in court, why not go to the legislature? Because it’s clear that Fairfax doesn’t want his day in court. He wants to force prosecutors to formally decline to investigate or to close out whatever preliminary work they’re doing. If that happens, Fairfax and his team will claim vindication, even if that isn’t at all what it means. (That seems to be going around.)
This challenge to prosecutors in both jurisdictions tells us one other thing, too: Fairfax doesn’t think he’s done politically. His term runs out at the end of the year, so it would have been much simpler to quietly slip back into the private sector and hope no one Googles him. Fairfax must have ambitions for future public office if they’re putting out this kind of challenge. And after watching Joe Morrissey make his comeback this week, it’s tough to bet against Fairfax succeeding in some way.