By McKenzie Lambert
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax filed a $400 million defamation lawsuit Thursday against CBS Corp. and CBS Broadcasting, stating the network aired “intentionally fabricated, false, and politically motivated statements.”
Fairfax, a lawyer, claims the network aired false statements from Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, the two women who allege they were sexually assaulted by Fairfax 15 and 19 years ago, respectively.
The lawsuit criticizes the network for “intentionally” failing to investigate leads “that would have placed the truthfulness of Watson’s and Tyson’s stories in serious doubt.” The lawsuit alleges the allegations were “a political hit job.”
Fairfax said CBS “recklessly disregarded” attempts to verify the women’s claims by not running an independent investigation. He also said the “defamatory statements have been repeatedly and foreseeably republished by media outlets and other third parties throughout the country,” which has damaged his reputation and ability to earn a living.
CBS said in a statement: “We stand by our reporting and we will vigorously defend this lawsuit.”
The allegations originally surfaced in February, at a time when — according to the lawsuit — Fairfax “was poised to ascend to the Governorship of Virginia” as calls rose for the resignation of Gov. Ralph Northam following a blackface scandal. All three of the state’s top executive branch Democrats were engulfed in scandal within a week of the discovery of a photograph in Northam’s medical school yearbook showing a man in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan garb.
Tyson came forward with sexual assault allegations against Fairfax days after the blackface photo was released. Not long after that, Attorney General Mark Herring — who had called for Northam’s resignation — admitted wearing blackface to a party in the 1980s.
Fairfax accused CBS of acting with actual malice by “hyping” allegations and that airing the interviews was “calculated to maximize ratings for CBS in light of the ongoing scandal involving Governor Northam.”
Fairfax has claimed his innocence since the beginning and said he had consensual intimacy with both women. He has maintained that law enforcement should investigate the accusations, though no charges have been filed against him. After the CBS interviews aired, Fairfax released the results of polygraph examinations that he said exonerate him.
The lawsuit is intended to “restore his reputation and clear his name, ensure the truth prevails, stop the weaponization of false allegations of sexual assault against him, and vindicate his rights under civil law.”
Fairfax stated that the network was attempting to align with #MeToo victims after scandals rippled up to CBS CEO Les Moonves, who was fired over sexual misconduct allegations. “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Charlie Rose was fired after eight women made sexual harassment allegations. “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager left the network also in the face of sexual misconduct allegations.
Fairfax’s legal team concluded that “the network sought to visibly align itself on the side of perceived victims to improve its public image.”
Fairfax takes aim at others in the lawsuit including Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. The lawsuit says Stoney views Fairfax as a “political rival who has been positioned to delay Stoney’s desired run for Governor.”
Tyson’s allegations went viral on media outlets on Feb.4. The lawsuit claims a message was originally shared by Adria Scharf, who is married to Thad Williamson, Stoney’s former adviser. Williamson, according to the lawsuit, has been friends with Tyson since college.
“Stoney, Williamson, and Scharf intended to promote a supposedly damaging, uncorroborated accusation against Fairfax involving Tyson in an attempt to harm Fairfax personally and professionally and to derail his political future,” the lawsuit claims.
In February, a spokesman for Stoney denied the mayor is involved, saying the insinuation was “100 percent not true.”
In addition to demanding at least $400 million in compensation and a jury trial, the lawsuit also asks for an injunction that would stop the network from “disseminating, distributing, or publishing any footage or statements that are judicially determined to be defamatory.”
Police looking for man wearing Scream mask who robbed BP station on Arthur Ashe Boulevard
An unknown suspect wearing a “Scream” mask walked into the convenience store, displayed a handgun and demanded money from the clerk.
From Richmond Police:
At approximately 7:57 p.m. yesterday, an officer responded to a business in the 3300 block of N Arthur Ashe Boulevard for the report of a robbery that had just occurred.
An unknown suspect wearing a “Scream” mask walked into the convenience store, displayed a handgun and demanded money from the clerk. The suspect stole an undisclosed amount of cash from the register before fleeing the scene on foot toward Westwood Avenue.
The suspect was last seen wearing the mask, a black hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, black sneakers, and black gloves.
At this point, detectives are investigating the robbery as possibly related to previous incidents where the suspect wore a similar mask. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000.
Police make arrest in Chamberlayne Avenue homicide
At approximately 7:06 a.m. on January 3, officers were called to a motel in the 2600 block of Chamberlayne Avenue for the report of a shooting.
The Richmond Police Department, with the assistance of the United States Marshals Service, has made an arrest in connection with a homicide on Chamberlayne Avenue that occurred earlier this month.
Gerard A. Hargrove, 44, of the 2900 block of Chamberlayne Avenue, was captured by the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force last week. He has been charged with murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. His booking photo is attached.
At approximately 7:06 a.m. on January 3, officers were called to a motel in the 2600 block of Chamberlayne Avenue for the report of a shooting. When police arrived, they found William O. Hurt down and unresponsive in a motel room. He had suffered an apparent gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Anyone with further information on this homicide is asked to call Major Crimes Detective M. Godwin at (804) 646-5533 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.
Data: More pedestrians are dying on Virginia’s roads
In 2018, 123 pedestrians died on the state’s roads — the highest death toll in a decade. Preliminary figures show that in 2019, at least 120 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in the commonwealth.
By Kelly Booth and Judi Dalati
On a Friday night in October, Katelyn Tilts was walking to a convenience store with a group of friends when she saw headlights coming at her.
“A car came around the corner really quickly and was swerving. The driver was swerving but started going directly at me and hit me head-on,” Tilts later told WTVR. “I remember thinking that it hurt so bad that I didn’t know how I would be able to make it until the ambulance got there.”
The hit-and-run incident left Tilts, a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University, hospitalized and on crutches. She survived, but many pedestrians hit by vehicles do not.
According to data from the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Department of Motor Vehicles, 123 pedestrians died on the state’s roads in 2018 — the highest death toll in 10 years.
Preliminary figures show that at least 120 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in the commonwealth last year.
Not only are more pedestrians being killed, but they also are making up a greater proportion of all traffic fatalities:
- In 2015, 10% of the people killed in roadway accidents in Virginia were pedestrians.
- That figure jumped to 16% the following year. Last year, it was 15%, according to VDOT and DMV data.
“The vast, overwhelming majority of people who die on our streets are killed by drivers of cars,” noted Ross Catrow, executive director of RVA Rapid Transit, an advocacy group for regional public transportation.
“And the further sad truth is that these deaths and serious injuries often go unnoticed, underreported, and, even worse, usually nothing is done to build better streets and make them safer for people,” Catrow wrote on Streets Cred, his website about urban issues affecting mid-sized American cities.
Catrow has pointed out that some people say pedestrians are at fault for the rising number of traffic accidents. He rejects that notion.
“I’m so ultra-tired of engineers, elected officials and everyone else blaming ‘distracted pedestrians’ for the increase in injuries on our roads,” he said on his “Good Morning, RVA” podcast.
Catrow advocates traffic-calming measures such as painted curb bulbs and posts that can narrow intersections, increase visibility and slow down drivers to prevent pedestrian accidents.
Some people blame elderly drivers for causing accidents. But 25% of the motorists involved in traffic accidents that have killed pedestrians since 2013 were in their 20s — and half of them were under 40. About 22% of the drivers involved in pedestrian fatalities were 60 and older.
Ralph Aronberg, a traffic engineer consultant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said some people in their early 20s have poor driving habits.
“Drivers in that age group are more likely to use social media such as Instagram on their cellphone, are more likely to have groups in vehicles leading to distractions and are less likely to realize the consequences of taking their eyes off the road,” he said.
Aronberg, whose firm focuses on accident reconstructions, said people in their early 20s are also more likely to drive at night, drink and drive, or be under the influence of THC or other mind-altering substances while operating a car.
Pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in Virginia since 2013 have ranged in age from infants to 96. About a third of the victims were under 30; slightly over a third in their 40s and 50s; and the rest 60 or older.
Since 2013, Fairfax has had the most pedestrian deaths — more than 80, according to VDOT data. Then come Henrico County (43), Norfolk (40), Richmond (31) and Newport News (27).
The roads with the most pedestrian fatalities during that time period were:
- Jefferson Avenue, Newport News — seven
- Route 11, Washington County — three
- South Street, Front Royal — three
- Southbound Route 288, Goochland County — three
- Chamberlayne Avenue, Richmond — three
Weather was not a factor in most pedestrian deaths.
“Most vehicle-pedestrian accidents happen in good weather,” said Daniel Vomhof, a traffic safety expert in California and a member of the Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstructionists.
More than 85% of the pedestrian fatalities in Virginia happened in clear or cloudy weather conditions, the VDOT data showed. About 13% occurred in rain, mist or fog, and 1% in snowy weather.
To stay safe, Vomhof recommends that pedestrians wear white or reflective shoes at night and light-colored clothing that doesn’t blend in with the surroundings.
“Visibility increases when the object is in eye contrast to the background,” Vomhof said.
About the data in this report:
The data for this project was downloaded from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Virginia Crashes | Virginia Roads website. It covers every vehicle crash in the state from 2013 to July of this year.
The data set contains more than 828,000 records. We filtered it for pedestrian accidents (about 11,000) and then for fatal pedestrian accidents (660).
We analyzed the data using Microsoft Excel, aggregating the data by locality, weather conditions and other columns in the spreadsheet.
We also used the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle’s online “Traffic Crash Data” tool to confirm and refine our analysis. We also ensured that the numbers were consistent with those published in the DMV’s report, 2018 Virginia Traffic Crash Facts.