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Woman who accused Va. lieutenant governor will meet with Suffolk DA

Vanessa Tyson is an associate professor in politics at Scripps College.
Vanessa Tyson is an associate professor in politics at Scripps College.(AP)

Vanessa Tyson, who has accused Virginia’s lieutenant governor of sexually assaulting her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, will meet with the Suffolk district attorney’s office to detail her allegations, according to her attorney.

Debra S. Katz, an attorney representing Tyson, said in a statement that she spoke with Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins Wednesday afternoon and told her Tyson will meet with the district attorney’s staff and law enforcement.

“We are working to schedule a meeting,” said Katz in the statement.

The development came a day after Rollins, a Democrat who took office in January, said she is ready to investigate the allegations, raising the prospect of a criminal probe that could deepen the political turmoil engulfing Virginia.

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Rollins said she e-mailed a letter to lawyers for Tyson last week informing them that if Tyson wants to file a criminal complaint against Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, prosecutors in Rollins’s office will investigate.

Tyson alleges that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on the third day of the Democratic convention in 2004, when she accompanied Fairfax to his hotel room and the two started kissing. Fairfax has said the encounter was entirely consensual.

Lauren Burke, a Fairfax spokeswoman, said Wednesday that Fairfax looks forward to “any investigation” by the district attorney’s office. He would fully cooperate with any such probe, she said.

“We have said all along we are open to a full, fair, and impartial and nonpolitical investigation of this matter that affords due process to all,” she said in a statement. “We look forward to meeting the Suffolk County district attorney should they decide to commence an investigation and will cooperate fully.”

She added, “We know that when all accounts are heard that the truth will prevail and his name will be cleared.”

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Earlier in the week, Burke had said that if a criminal complaint is filed, the lieutenant governor “will explore all options with regard to filing his own criminal complaint in response to the filing of a false criminal complaint against him.”

On Wednesday, Katz, Tyson’s attorney, referred to that statement as “a shocking threat.”

“This is a clear effort to obstruct justice,” said Katz in her statement. “Dr. Tyson will not be bullied and she will not be silenced by such threats.”

A Rollins spokeswoman Wednesday evening said that office would not discuss conversations with Tyson in deference to her confidentiality.

Tyson, a 42-year-old political science professor, would have nearly six months to file a criminal complaint against Fairfax because of the 15-year statute of limitations for sexual assaults in Massachusetts. Prosecutors could also argue that Fairfax stopped the clock on the statute of limitations when he left the state.

Fairfax has denied assaulting Tyson and another woman, Meredith Watson, who has accused Fairfax of raping her in 2000, when both were undergraduates at Duke University.

Fairfax, a 39-year-old Democrat, has refused calls from members of his own party to resign.

In Virginia, crisis has buffeted the state’s Democratic leadership in recent weeks.

Governor Ralph Northam has also rejected calls to step down after photos from his 1984 medical school yearbook were published showing people dressed in a KKK robe and in blackface. Northam has denied he is in the photos but acknowledged wearing blackface at a dance contest in 1984.

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Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat and the state’s third-ranking elected official, has acknowledged that he also wore blackface at a party at the University of Virginia in 1980.


Maria Cramer and Michael Levenson of Globe staff contributed to this report.