One More Time, The Second Accuser Scenario, And Fairness For Justin Fairfax

From the Washington Post today:

“A Maryland woman said Friday she was raped by Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) in a “premeditated and aggressive” assault in 2000, while they both were undergraduate students at Duke University. She is the second woman this week to make an accusation of sexual assault.

The woman, Meredith Watson, said Friday in a written statement through her attorney that she shared her account immediately after it happened with several classmates and friends. Watson did not speak publicly Friday and her lawyer did not make her available for an interview.

Watson was friends with Fairfax at Duke but they never dated or had any romantic relationship, the lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, said.

“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 in the 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.”

Now what?

An unrelated accusation of conduct X does not mean that a previous unsubstantiated accusation of the same conduct is true. However…

  • In the case of habitual or characteristic misconduct—like being a sexual predator or a sexual harasser—the likelihood that there have been more, undisclosed episodes involving the individual accused is high.
  • Thus the absence of a credible second (or third, fourth, and onward) accuser in a matter like this is legitimate evidence arguing for the innocence of the accused. An example would be Clarence Thomas.
  • When subsequent allegations are substantially similar to the original accusation, they are especially damning. Bill Cosby is the poster case for this variation. Another exampole: Kevin Spacey.
  • When the second and additional allegations are suspiciously timed, as during an election or a political controversy, when they involve general misconduct only, lack named accusers or when they are sketchy in their facts and proof, they should be regarded with extreme skepticism. The add-on Kavanaugh accusations fit this description.
  • The fact that a court decision or an official investigation has not definitively determined that misconduct has taken place does not require individuals, groups and the public to discard commons sense, if they can eliminate bias from their decision-making. O.J. Simpson, it is fair to say,  is guilty of murder, and it is completely fair to regard him in that light. Barry Bonds used banned and illegal drugs to enhance his major league baseball career. Harvey Weinstein is a sexual predator who traded professional advancement for sex. We don’t need admissions here to come to informed decisions.

Now what does all of this mean for Justin Fairfax, next in line to be Governor of Virginia if Governor Northam decides, as an honorable public servant should, that he has made such an irredeemable ass of himself by his obfuscations, double-back flips, and tap-dancing around the question of whether he had a photo of himself in blackface in his yearbook that no Virginian in his or her right mind could possibly feel secure trusting such a boob to handle the affairs of the Commonwealth? What is fair?

If Fairfax indeed raped or sexually assaulted one or both of these women, and only he knows, then he should resign. No state should have a felon, charged or not, convicted or not as governor. If he did not rape either woman, then his decision is political as well as ethical. Can he do a good job as governor of Virginia if he cannot clear his name and convince objective observers that the accusation is false? Will sufficient numbers of Virginians trust him? Will substantial numbers of Virginians want to be governed by a plausibly accused rapist? The fact that he may want to be Governor, feel he deserves to be Governor, and  that his career is being derailed unfairly are irrelevant to the decision. If he cannot do the job, if he will not be trusted, if his continued tenure in defiance of the accusations harms the state, the public, and the party, then he is ethically obligated to step down. innocent or not.

The second accusation does not render him guilty.

I think it does render him unable to serve.

Addendum: to my Democratic Facebook friends, some of them lawyers, who opined today that Fairfax should remain because they would rather have someone who is a double-rapist by Governor than allow Republicans to run the state, you are seriously and sadly corrupted, and I’m ashamed of you.

 

31 thoughts on “One More Time, The Second Accuser Scenario, And Fairness For Justin Fairfax

  1. The fact that a court decision or an official investigation has not definitively determined that misconduct has taken place does not require individuals, groups and the public to discard commons sense, if they can eliminate bias from their decision-making. O.J. Simpson, it is fair to say, is guilty of murder, and it is completely fair to regard him in that light. Barry Bonds used banned and illegal drugs to enhance his major league baseball career. Harvey Weinstein is a sexual predator who traded professional advancement for sex. We don’t need admissions here to come to informed decisions.

    Is it fair to say that we need a preponderance of evidence?

  2. I am sorry that I do not share your opinion in this matter.

    The basis of my disagreement is based on the fact that we have a presumption of innocence for those accused of serious felonies.

    Given that many involved in politics have little to no regard for civility, or trashing the reputations of opponents, or even undermining our faith in elections by working to delegitimize valid elections, I would not give much credibility to accusations that heretofore have never been reported to law enforcement.

    Let’s keep in mind that Fairfax has been in office for some time and no one made any accusations during the campaign so the claim of doing this as a public service by the one that alleges rape while in college is to me a bit suspect. Both parties to the initial accusation stated things were consensual at first. Here we have a well educated woman that now claims he coerced her to fellate him after a consensual makeout session and never reports this assault to law enforcement. What is this feminine privilege; the ability to wait for an opportune momement to level a charge?

    For me to hold that Fairfax is of questionable character, as it relates to the charges by the accusers, I must hold the accusers to no less a standard that each had an obligation to report such incidents to law enforcement at the time. Without a contemporaneous police report it is far too easy to hide behind the very chauvanistic norms of male protection to level accusations at a later date. This is the 21st century and its been decades since office antics had guys patting the butts of those in the secretarial pool.

    As a conservative I must remain consistent in my approach toward assessing credibility. Simply being female does not automatically confer some special right of believability. Equal rights requires equal responsibilities. In the same vein, simply being a male who claims innocence is not enough to exhonerate the accused in a he said she said situation. For me credibility boils down to timing. The closer to the time of the alleged occurence the greater level of credibility I confer upon an accuser.

    As someone that believes that as we adjudicate any issue either in the courts or in the court of public opinion we have an ethical duty to ensure that we do not destroy an innocent person simply to get a conviction to make us feel we obtained justice, we must prove the guilt of the accused.

    • However, my belief that a man accused of rape on victim testimony alone is likely innocent is approximately halved when a second accuser surfaces, and if a third, and a fourth comes up, the process continues. Somewhere between two and ten, certainty creeps in. I don’t believe the accusers, But accusations aren’t nothing. I don’t see how Fairfax can do his job. Simple as that.

      • Jack, in this I have to disagree as well. These accusations seem too politically timed to bear much weight, and just as Kavanaugh should have (and did) endure a trial of public opinion and hang on despite the onslaught, so should Fairfax. A man’s public career should not be discarded because of mere accusations. They need to be proven in a court of law. To surrender is to give credence to any accusation that comes along, no matter how specious. Furthermore, if being embattled is disqualifying for public office, then Trump should resign as president. I don’t think that’s a conclusion anyone on the Right would support, and I don’t think it is a conclusion any with a fair mind would support. And I don’t like defending Democrats.

    • So Fairfax was regarded as the likely successor when Northam’s term ended. Would the two accusations make you less likely to vote for him? If so, why, if he shouldn’t have resigned? If not, why not?

    • The basis of my disagreement is based on the fact that we have a presumption of innocence for those accused of serious felonies.

      Chris, you and I agree often, and this is just another example of such a case.

      Having said that, I do understand Jack’s thinking. The thing is, Jack is talking about essentially a personal decision about a person’s guilt, not a legal process.

      I think Americans, most of us with a brain, anyway, embrace the concept of presumption of innocence not only in the courtroom, but in the court of public opinion. However, while the courtroom criminal presumption is an utterly inflexible principle designed to protect the innocent, the public opinion version is far less rigid, similar to the difference between criminal proceedings and civil ones.

      The old saying, “Quantity has a quality all its own” comes into play when more than one person makes a public accusation of a criminal act or moral turpitude just short of criminal activity. Embracing a presumption of innocence does not require that we blind ourselves, as persons, to the available evidence, which includes multiple, credible accusations of misconduct.

      For me personally, I agree with your thinking. There is no quantity of accusations that would cause me to condemn a person without significant supporting evidence, especially of a 35-year old event. For me personally outside a criminal jury room, innocent until proven guilty (and my personal standard of proof is clear and convincing evidence) is an absolute injunction.

      However, it is also true that multiple credible accusations that are not rendered questionable by other factors (such as political activism or other obvious conflicts of interest) is, in itself, a form of evidence. The more of such credible evidence there is, the more convinced a person may become.

      For me personally, we have not reached my standard of proof, but we have moved closer absent information that renders one of these accusations suspect.

    • The issue here is that this isn’t a personal issue, it is an issue about what is best for the Commonwealth of Virginia. If he was a private individual trying to live his life and this happened, well, it is a personal matter only. If he knows he didn’t do it and these people are trying to frame him, he has no obligation to quit his job and destroy his life. This isn’t the case here. Can he effectively do the crucial job as governor with these allegations hanging over his head?

      This is the same question President Trump needs to ask himself. It is obvious that he is not acting as effectively as President as he could because of the politically-motivated investigation against him. However, in his case, resigning would encourage such behavior and destroy the Presidency itself. It is best for the country him to go on as President and fight this dangerous unconstitutional action.

      For Fairfax, is this politically motivated? Both women appear to be lifelong Democrats. Is this the political environment the Democratic Party has encouraged because of its reckless attacks on Republicans, conservative, whites, and men? He needs to decide what is best for Virginia. His job is to serve the people of Virginia, not the Democratic Party. If he can’t do that, he really needs to resign. If people can’t see that, they need to find another country. Go to Venezuela and tell the people there to stop complaining and enjoy the socialist utopia.

  3. .
    “​If these allegations concerning Lieutenant Governor Fairfax are accurate, then they are clearly disqualifying and he must resign,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement late Friday.

    Well, duh…why yes, Senator, if Fairfax is a rapist, he should resign. Going out on a limb there, are you?

    What a craven idiot.

  4. I worry that asking him to step down because of unproven and untried allegations would simply lead us further down kavanaugh’s path. Soon, any Male or even ex Male would simply be forced to resign office, just by ginning up a few scandalous tales. It’s not great that the are now two people accusing him. But giving the court of scandal and public opinion the power to declare who is and is not fit for office, regardless of elections? I shudder. The witch hunts are far from over.

  5. Reputations are ruined no matter what; Kavanaugh will forever be tied to the accusations, no matter how false they are. The difference between him and Thomas is that Democrats have opened their kimono as to what a naked power grab they are on; I swear we’re on our way to the United Soviet States of America (is there any other way on God’s green earth that the election of AOC happened?). I digress.

    The political differential is that the Democrats will continue to support their accused, even with evidence credible enough to go to an actual trial – see Bob Menendez of New Jersey. Republicans are either weak enough or strong enough to throw most of the accused under the bus.

    So what is the ethical obligation of the voter? Consider it politically timed, and ignore it? If only one accuser, likely. What about two accusers? What is the nature of the accusation? Is it suspect based on lack of detail presented, as in Ford’s case? What about friends of the accuser, do they at least back up what the accuser says? In Ford’s case, any reasonable observer would view what’s presented and say “probably not”. In Fairfax’s case, all the details are there from the first accuser. Let’s see if the friends of the second accuser confirm her details.

    “Politically timed” or not there are now two accusers. To Jack’s point, habitual abusers have a typically have a long history and multiple victims. If there are third and fourth accusers, does the political timing matter?

    Any ethical voter would consider the nature of these things (i.e. multiple credible accusers) and conclude they could not cast a vote for someone so accused, “proved or not”. The court of public opinion, and sometimes common sense, need only consider a preponderance of the evidence.

    I think Jack’s point is that an ethical office holder would consider the impact of that, how it harms the party, and conclude someone else would better serve constituents.

  6. I’m pretty sure that the core of what Jack wrote or implied is that the multiple accusations “render him unable to serve”.

    I’ve heard similar arguments for so long from progressives and social justice warriors that I now completely disregard the argument no matter where I hear it.

    Honest question; what makes this so different than all the other times I’ve heard the argument?

    I’m having a really hard time with this, am I the only one?

    • Multiple accusations, or multiple, seemingly credible accusations? Unable to serve is clearly dependent upon the political party in question.

        • Why not? If your party has a standard and you fall short, shouldn’t they be able to call you to account for that? If a Democrat admits that they intentionally let babies die because the mothers didn’t want them, that probably isn’t reason for the person to step down. That is completely within the values of the Democratic Party. If a Republican admitted to the same thing, I would expect them to step down (unless they were a Democrat at the time and the experience is what made them change their life). That behavior is incompatible with the Republican Party today.

    • Honest question; what makes this so different than all the other times I’ve heard the argument?

      Nothing. I think it’s a personal judgment, and different people have different standards for reaching that judgment. And no, you’re not the only one struggling with this.

      What Jack is saying, as I read it, is that multiple credible accusations mount up as evidence against his character, and I am forced to agree generally.

      For me, though, accusations alone are never going to be enough, regardless of the quantity. Cosby’s case had much more than just accusations for evidence, but until that began to emerge, I was firmly for innocence in Cosby’s case. I feel no urgency to condemn someone based on a 15 (or 35) year-old accusation.

      Also, I struggle when people make accusations without having told anyone else. That renders them instantly suspicious, and if that’s sexist, I embrace it utterly.

      But this latest case has the potential to be more convincing since the accuser said she told multiple people contemporaneously about it.

      • But this latest case has the potential to be more convincing since the accuser said she told multiple people contemporaneously about it.

        According the descriptions, she gave an interpretation of something that happened, her description of it. She characterized her encounter as a *rape* and cried about it.

        What is ‘credible’ is that something happened. What is not necessarily credible is her interpretation and presentation of it.

      • I have no problem if the people of Virginia recall these elected officials but people are calling for impeachment based on accusations from well prior to these people entering office, I also thing trying them in the court of public opinion and demanding their resignation is

  7. Chris Marschner wrote: “Both parties to the initial accusation stated things were consensual at first. Here we have a well educated woman that now claims he coerced her to fellate him after a consensual makeout session and never reports this assault to law enforcement. What is this feminine privilege; the ability to wait for an opportune moment to level a charge?”

    There you have the essence of it, and also one of the ideas that came through Katie Roiphe’s book ‘The Morning After”. Apparently, the women (or these women) chose to enter into a sexual situation and were going along with it. From that point on though it all gets murky. They were allowing a sexual situation to develop, and participated in it, then they regretted their actions, reinterpreted them, and blamed the man for wrongdoing.

    True, that simply kissing someone (as an example) should not be interpreted by them as permission to go further, and certainly true that men (and some women no doubt) do inevitably interpret that the first step is *permission* for all other steps. I acknowledge that in that ambiguous situation a man could apply aggression and thus the result could be interpreted as rape. But I am highly skeptical of the entire dynamic.

    There is a BBC article that gives her view of what happened. My interpretation? She (Vanessa Tyson) fully participated but at a certain point had misgivings. Fair enough. But the lesson is: Do not get into those kinds of dangerous and ambiguous situations in the future. Go back to your dorm and *cry* if you wish, and then further examine the causal chain that led to the situation, but don’t portray it as a ‘rape’.

    In this particular instance, the situation is ambiguous enough that the *interpretation* of rape is questionable. Bringing it out at this point will have the effect of destroying the man’s career. This sort of late accusation should be seen, facially, as profoundly unethical. Additionally, there should be harsh consequences for the accuser. If there are no harsh consequences (legal charges brought against her, a lawsuit to follow, with the prospect of monetary award), this sort of thing will go on and will never stop.

    It is related to larger ‘hysterical campaigns’ that are ‘enactments’ — rituals of vengeance — carried out by psychotic feminists who seem to have very confused feelings about what has happened to them as women in a larger social and cultural context. That is, man’s culture turning women into pure sexual objects.

    “The Furies” appear as deeply seated anger for abuse. And this anger is irrational and ‘ancient’.

    “Nothing forces us to know
    What we do not want to know
    Except pain”

    I realize this view is not an easy one to consider. But I think that the causes of the tide of social hysteria — which is feminine in its nature: misgivings, historical anger, desire for revenge, and anti-rational and hyper-emotional — must be sought in psychology, a highly speculative endeavor this I admit.

    But once the deeply irrational element of woman’s anger is fully released, it appears to stalk the land and seek victims for sacrifice. When it is combined with political machinations and when the State defends it, the infection proceeds deeply into the social body. It is a sign of *madness*. And it will not end well.

    The causes of this must be sought out. But no one can do it because they are so far complicit in the effects. The review of causation is the stuff of the (essence of) the Culture Wars.

    In my view, woman’s real project is that of ‘recovery’ alongside her man. That involves a profound analysis of *what has happened in the culture and why*.

    • Too bad that literary references from Greek and Shakespearian tragedy cannot be admitted into legal (and cultural) argumentation … 😉

      Come Dionysus, Come and appear to us!
      Come like a bull or a hundred-headed serpent!
      Come like a lion snorting flame from your nostrils!
      Swoop down, Bacchus, on the hunter of the Bacchae!
      Smile at him and snare him!
      And let the stampeding herd of the Maenads
      Throw him and throttle him,
      Catch, trip, trample him to death!

      • This is the problem with the current concept of ‘consent’ in our current laws and rules. If consent can be withdrawn at any time, there is no way a partner can truly know if the other person consents. That is why videotapes of women giving consent before sex is illegal in Canada right now. Just because they consented then doesn’t mean they withdrew consent 7, 8, or 9 minutes later. Under the current scheme, a man cannot truly know if he isn’t raping a woman. No matter how many times he asks for consent, no matter what format he asks it, he can’t know if consent will be withdrawn until it is too late.

  8. I am just so very, very proud to be a resident of the Old Dominion. Get rid of all three and hold a special election. This is what Northern Virginia’s wealthy “progressives” have wrought…

  9. Jack writes: “Now what does all of this mean for Justin Fairfax, next in line to be Governor of Virginia if Governor Northam decides, as an honorable public servant should, that he has made such an irredeemable ass of himself by his obfuscations, double-back flips, and tap-dancing around the question of whether he had a photo of himself in blackface in his yearbook that no Virginian in his or her right mind could possibly feel secure trusting such a boob to handle the affairs of the Commonwealth? What is fair?”

    The *honorable public servant* (Northam) needs to stand his ground. He needs to say something like this:

    “When the photos in my medical school yearbook surfaced, I reacted against the accusations that were brought against me irrationally. I think this is *natural*, if I can put it like this, and other people might have reacted similarly if they found themselves in my situation. I did indeed submit those photos, and I did at that time have a callous attitude toward the historical situation of black Americans in the US: a situation that has been in slow remediation for many many years now.

    “Though my participation in putting on ‘blackface’ and putting that image side to side with a man dressed in a KKK costume, today, looks simply horrible (and is horrible in and of itself), this had been a culture-wide phenomenon. I cannot excuse it, but I can explain it. And now, at this point in my life, and having analyzed myself about these attitudes long ago, I can honestly say that I am horrified by what these images mean, and what it means to use them to mock terrible conditions for Blacks. Though I did indeed do that and allow that many years back, I can honestly say that I am different now: I have matured along with the culture.

    “I could not make this clear statement when the news came out. I saw my career and my livelihood threatened and I reacted without courageous thought and self-analysis. Now I am doing this. And now I am providing a fuller story of what my process had been.

    “I am not going to resign, and I will fight against any and all efforts to force me to resign. I am going to stay at my post for the term of my post. I think it is more reprehensible to bow to social pressure — though I recognize the anger as justifiable — than to allow a mob sentiment to determine the fate of any elected official, including of course myself.”

  10. Finally, it is time for the essay: On Apologies. There is a BBC article that moves in that direction.

    [I suggest a collaboration between David Duke and Charles Blow. Or, to keep things topical and ironical, perhaps Spartan will collaborate with me and we’ll write it?]

  11. “and tap-dancing around the question of whether he had a photo of himself in blackface in his yearbook”

    Shouldn’t that be “moonwalking” rather than “tap dancing?” I mean Ralph’s evidently more a Michael Jackson guy than Bo Jangles Robinson, right?

  12. f Fairfax indeed raped or sexually assaulted one or both of these women, and only he knows, then he should resign. No state should have a felon, charged or not, convicted or not as governor.

    Bill Clinton forever lower that bar… before he was even President. Ship not only sailed, but has been turned into a floating museum so we can all know that felonies do not apply to Democrats.

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