With both sides now publicly represented by high-profile Washington, D.C., law firms, Justin Fairfax’s accuser came forward Wednesday with a detailed account of the alleged sexual assault that has become one of a series of scandals to roil Virginia politics in recent days.
Vanessa Tyson, an associate professor of politics at Scripps College in California, alleges that Fairfax, the state’s lieutenant governor and a partner at Morrison & Foerster, forced her into oral sex during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” Tyson said in a lengthy statement issued on the letterhead of her law firm, Katz, Marshall & Banks. “I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual. To be very clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent.”
Also on Wednesday, Rakesh Kilaru, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz, confirmed that he is representing Fairfax, who has strongly denied the assault and threatened legal action over the accusations.
“I and my firm were retained by the Lieutenant Governor in January 2018 with respect to a possible story in a media publication and we are currently representing him as well,” Kilaru, a former associate counsel in the Office of White House Counsel under President Barack Obama, wrote in an email confirming the representation.
The Wilkinson and Katz firms found themselves on opposite sides of a national political scandal involving alleged sexual misconduct just last fall, when then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh turned to Beth Wilkinson and his most high profile accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, turned to Debra Katz.
Katz’s firm has declined to comment on Tyson’s accusations. Tyson, in her statement, described first coming forward with her account of the alleged assault to The Washington Post after Fairfax was elected in November 2017, and she rejected Fairfax’s depiction of the newspaper’s reasons for not running her story.
“Since October 2017 when I first began telling friends about the assault, I have never wavered in my account because I am telling the truth,” Tyson said. “I have no political motive. I am a proud Democrat. My only motive in speaking now is to refute Mr. Fairfax’s falsehoods and aspersions of my character, and to provide what I believe is important information for Virginians to have as they make critical decisions that involve Mr. Fairfax.”
Fairfax is first-in-line to run the Commonwealth of Virginia, should Gov. Ralph Northam resign over his use of blackface before he launched his political career. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, next in line for governor after Northam and Fairfax, admitted Wednesday that he too wore blackface.
In a statement rejecting Tyson’s claims earlier this week, Fairfax that said he “will take appropriate legal action against those attempting to spread this defamatory and false allegation.” While Fairfax did not identify a target of such legal action, Tyson’s statement said Fairfax had “threatened litigation.”
In a statement Wednesday, Fairfax called the accusation “surprising and hurtful” and described his encounter with Tyson as consensual.
Tyson’s statement noted that it was the only comment she and her legal team would make on the alleged assault.