Dem Lawmaker May Commute to Work from Jail

Morrissey headed to jail for his relationship with a teen, but is yet to resign

Del. Joe Morrissey (D.) holds up an AK47-style rifle on the floor of the Virginia General Assembly / AP
December 15, 2014

Democratic Virginia state delegate Joseph Morrissey, who reached a plea agreement for charges relating to a sexual relationship he had with his 17-year-old office assistant, is yet to decide whether he will resign or commute to work from jail.

The 57-year-old Democratic representative for Henrico county was sentenced to 12 months in jail with 6 months suspended for charges of "contributing to the delinquency of a minor," according to a report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Morrissey’s lawyers say that he will be allowed to continue his work in the general assembly and his private law practice as part of a work-release program. He will drive his own car to work and authorities will monitor him through a device that will remain secured to his ankle, according to his lawyers.

The special prosecutor assigned to the case also revealed on Friday that the girl is now pregnant, and that the child is "perhaps" Morrissey’s.

However, Morrissey maintains that the allegations are false and that the evidence against him, such as naked pictures and explicit text messages, was planted by a jealous friend of the girl who hacked Morrissey’s cell phone.

The cell phone evidence was not all that was working against Morrissey. Investigators tracking Morrissey last year photographed them together on multiple locations as well as his car at her apartment late at night.

Prosecutors also suggested that Morrissey and the teen remain in a relationship. She, along with a sister and her mother, were overnight guests at Morrissey’s house the night before the plea agreement was reached.

Despite the work-release program, it remains unclear whether he will be able to continue work for his legal practice. Prosecutors told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that they will immediately notify the Virginia State Bar of the conviction.

Prosecutor William Neely said back in 2011 that Morrissey "completely lacks any moral compass" and employs "notoriously unethical practices."

Neely has a lot of material to back up his characterization.

As Richmond’s prosecutor in 1991, Morrissey punched a rival attorney in the face and wound up in jail. Two years later, he was indicted on a bribery charge for reducing charges in a rape case in exchange for a $25,000 payment to the victim. The charges were dropped, but his law license was suspended.

He again had his law license suspended in 1998 and was put in jail for 90 days for improperly speaking to reporters during a drug case.

He got into another fight in 1999 and was sentenced to 300 hours of community service. He tried to fake the number of hours he served, and was given another 90 days in jail, before finally being disbarred.

He then practiced law overseas in Ireland and Australia before authorities discovered he had been disbarred, and he came back to Virginia, where he was elected to the General Assembly in 2007.

Morrissey regained his law license in 2012 despite a unanimous recommendation by the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board to deny his application.

Morrissey took an AK-47 rifle onto the floor of the general assembly last year as a prop during an anti-gun speech.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D.) said on Saturday that he will not support Morrissey should he decide against resigning from the General Assembly.