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2nd woman accuses Virginia official of sexual assault

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  • WASHINGTON — A second woman accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault Friday, saying the Democrat raped her 19 years ago while they were both students at Duke University.

    Calls for his resignation grew steadily as the day wore on.

    A lawyer for Meredith Watson, 39, said in a statement that Fairfax had attacked Watson in 2000. The statement described the assault as “premeditated and aggressive,” and noted that while Watson and Fairfax had been social friends, they were never involved romantically.

    The lawyer, Nancy E. Smith, said her team had statements from former classmates who said Watson had “immediately” told friends that Fairfax had raped her. A New Jersey public relations firm representing Watson provided The Associated Press with a 2016 email exchange with a female friend and 2017 text exchanges in which Watson said Fairfax had raped her. She also expressed dismay about his run for political office.

    Watson’s representatives declined to provide further documentation and said their client would not be talking to journalists.

    Fairfax shot back at his accusers quickly: he said in a statement that he would not resign from office, and vowed to clear his name against what he described as a “vicious and co-ordinated smear campaign” being orchestrated against him.

    “I deny this latest unsubstantiated allegation,” the embattled Democrat said. “It is demonstrably false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever. I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations. Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth.”

    Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said the university’s police department has no criminal reports naming or involving Fairfaxe. Any accusation made through the student disciplinary process would be protected by student privacy laws, and Schoenfeld said the university couldn’t comment or release further information.

    Police officials in Durham, North Carolina, where Duke is, said they had no records of an accusation against Fairfax in 2000.

    This is not the first time Watson has accused someone of assault. Following inquiries from AP and other media, Watson’s lawyer confirmed that while in college she accused another man, a basketball player at Duke, of raping her when she was a sophomore. Smith said Watson reported it to a top-level university administrator but received no help and was discouraged from taking the claim any further. The lawyer said Watson also told friends — including Fairfax — about the earlier incident.

    Duke officials told AP on Friday they had no immediate knowledge of the accusation against the basketball player but were researching the matter.

    The latest accusation against Fairfax comes two days after Vanessa Tyson, a 42-year-old political science professor, said publicly that Fairfax sexually assaulted her in a Boston hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Tyson says Fairfaix , then a law student working as an aide to Democratic vice-presidential nominee John Edwards, forced her to perform oral sex.

    Fairfax says his sexual encounter with Tyson was consensual.

    At the time, Tyson was working as a student adviser at Harvard University and was a frequent speaker to Boston-area support groups for rape survivors. Tyson has said she was sexually molested by a family member as a child.

    A man who was romantically involved with Tyson in the late 1990s said Thursday that she disclosed the childhood abuse to him during a conversation about why she found certain kinds of physical intimacy difficult. The man spoke to AP on condition of anonymity out of concern publication of his name would damage his career.

    He said Tyson told him oral sex in particular brought back painful memories of her childhood trauma. The man said he finds it nearly impossible to believe that Tyson would have performed oral sex without being forced.

    Though the man also knows Fairfax and considered him a friend, he said he believes Tyson is telling the truth.

    The Associated Press typically does not identify those who say they were sexually assaulted, but both Tyson and Watson issued public statements using their names.

    Tyson said Wednesday the 2004 incident left her feeling deeply humiliated and ashamed. She only began to tell friends about the alleged assault in October 2017, after seeing a photo of Fairfax next to an article about his campaign.

    Watson also confided in a friend after seeing that Fairfax was running for office. Watson, who now lives in Maryland, did so after she received an email from a college friend in 2016 urging former Duke students to support the campaign of “our good friend Justin.”

    Watson replied: “Justin raped me in college and I don’t want to hear anything about him. Please, please remove me from any future emails about him please. Thank you!”

    Watson’s lawyer said the circumstances of the alleged assault in 2000 were similar to what Tyson had described happening four years later, but declined to provide further details.

    “At this time, Ms. Watson is reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving in public office should be of the highest character,” Smith said, according to the written statement. “She has no interest in becoming a media personality or reliving the trauma that has greatly affected her life. Similarly, she is not seeking any financial damages.”

    Smith added that Watson also hopes Fairfax will resign his elected position.

    Carliss Chatman, a Washington & Lee Law School professor who graduated from Duke in 2001, said she has remained friends with Fairfax and hosted a political fundraiser for him. She remembers Watson from parties but didn’t think Watson and Fairfax ran in the same social circles and was surprised that the statement from Watson’s attorneys had described them as friends.

    “It doesn’t feel plausible at all,” she said of Watson’s allegations.

    The accusations against Fairfax have rocked an administration that was already struggling amid calls for the resignation of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam over a racist photo that appeared on his 1984 medical school yearbook page. Fairfax would be in line to become governor if Northam resigned.

    Following news of a second accuser against Fairfax, Democratic state lawmakers in Virginia issued a call for Fairfax to resign, as did the Virginia Black Legislative Caucus. Several members of the state’s congressional delegation, both black and white, also said Fairfax, who is black, can no longer serve in the office.

    ___

    Associated Press Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace and reporter Jonathan Drew in Durham, North Carolina, contributed to this report. Kunzelman reported from College Park, Maryland, and Suderman from Richmond, Virginia.

    ___

    Follow AP investigative reporter Michael Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck , Kunzelman at http://twitter.com/Kunzelman75 and Suderman at http://twitter.com/AlanSuderman

    ___

    Contact the AP’s investigative team with tips about this or other matters: https://www.ap.org/tips

    Michael Biesecker, Michael Kunzelman And Alan Suderman, The Associated Press


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    National

    PR firm suspends contract with former B.C. premier amid groping accusation

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  • VANCOUVER — A global communications marketing firm says it is suspending its contract with former British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell in light of an allegation in a British newspaper that he groped a woman in the United Kingdom.

    Edelman says in a statement that Campbell has served as a special adviser to the firm since last July, and was engaged on a part-time basis as a consultant through a retainer agreement.

    However, the company says it and Campbell have “mutually decided to suspend their consulting arrangement” until a police investigation in the United Kingdom is complete.

    On Friday, the Daily Telegraph reported that London police are investigating a complaint from a woman who was an employee at the Canadian High Commission when Campbell was high commissioner to the U.K.

    The newspaper says the complainant alleges she was groped in 2013 and filed a complaint with police in January.

    The Metropolitan Police in London could not be reached for comment on Friday or Saturday.

    Campbell also could not be reached for comment, but a spokesman issued the following statement on his behalf:

    “This complaint was transparently disclosed and became the subject of a full due diligence investigation at the time by the Government of Canada and was found to be without merit.”

    The Daily Telegraph story includes the woman’s name, but The Canadian Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault without their active consent and was not able to contact the woman.

    Campbell was premier of British Columbia from 2001 until 2011. He was appointed high commissioner to the U.K. in 2011 and left the diplomatic post in 2016.

    The Canadian Press


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    National

    International rules must be enforced, Freeland says after Munich conference

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  • Canada will continue to meet with like-minded nations as it aims to bridge divides between countries at a time of simmering international tensions, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said from Germany on Saturday.

    The approach is necessary as Canada strives to reinforce the “rules-based international order,” Freeland said in a conference call with reporters as she wrapped up her time at the Munich Security Conference.

    “We also think we need to … bring together specific coalitions around specific issues,” she said, listing the Lima Group — which helped empower Venezuela’s opposition in its fight against President Nicolas Maduro — as an example of Canada doing just that.

    The group helped identify the politician Canada and its allies recognize as Venezuela’s real leader, Juan Guaido, as a contender to bring down Maduro’s regime.

    “There is now a very long list of countries who have recognized Juan Guaido as interim president,” she said. “That is a sign that the international community is coming together around democracy in Venezuela.”

    But she added that Canada is not — and should not be — leading the fight against Maduro.

    “This is a process led by the people of Venezuela,” she said. “They are the ones who need to win this effort. Our job as the international community is to support them, and that is very much what we’re doing.”

    She said that beyond seeking out like-minded countries, Canada will continue to name and shame those involved in human rights abuses, listing the country’s involvement in protesting the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as an example of such an approach.

    The federal government has appointed former Liberal MP Bob Rae as Canada’s special envoy to Myanmar and pledged $300 million over the next three years to combat the crisis there. Last September, Parliament voted unanimously to strip Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, of her honorary Canadian citizenship for failing to stop the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people.

    Freeland’s public push for a rules-following international order also comes in the midst of an ongoing dispute between Canada and China, following what she called the superpower’s “arbitrary” detention of two Canadians in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

    Freeland said the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig was central to her discussion with Rob Malley, president of the International Crisis Group, and is yet another example of nations rallying together.

    “The ICG has been a very important partner in working to build international support,” she said.

    Numerous countries — including Germany, France, the Netherlands, the U.K., Australia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia — have spoken against the men’s detention. Earlier this week in Munich, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said the American response had not been strong enough.

    Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press


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