Convicted Felon Leaves Jail to Hit Polling Places on Election Day

Democrat-turned-independent has office raided by police on eve of election

Photo Credit: Brent Scher
January 13, 2015

HENRICO COUNTY, Va.—When polls opened at 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning to decide who will hold the state delegate seat for Virginia’s 74th district, Joe Morrissey, the man who held the seat less than a month ago, remained in a prison cell.

Thanks to a Henrico County work release program for inmates, Morrissey is able to leave jail for Election Day. Unlike the other candidates, Morrissey will have a tracking device secured to his ankle.

The Henrico County Sheriff’s Office told the Washington Free Beacon that Morrissey will be restricted to the maximum allowed 12 hours, and that it will know everywhere Morrissey will be. Morrissey requested that his release on Election Day be pushed back to 8 A.M. giving him an hour to return to jail after polls close at 7 P.M.

Morrissey is serving a six-month jail sentence for his relationship with a 17-year-old girl working in his law office. He resigned his seat shortly after he accepted guilt, but decided that he would run again in Tuesday’s special election.

Morrissey has found himself in further trouble during the election.

On the eve of the election, his law office was raided by police detectives with a search warrant.

Morrissey remains defiant and told reporters that it was "very shameful that on the day before the election they would do this."

Morrissey also maintains that the charges against him are false and continues to fight them. After the father of the teenage girl spoke with a local radio station about the case, Morrissey called in to refute the claims made against him.

Adding to the election eve drama was the arrival of the teen herself, who showed up at Richmond’s CBS 6 to say that "nothing took place between" her and Morrissey.

Morrissey still has his defenders in Richmond.

Robert Huotari, a long time friend of Morrissey who was distributing campaign literature outside the North Park Library polling place, says that the whole controversy surrounding Morrissey is the result of a lie, arguing that the teen lied about her age.

"If someone says they are 21 on an application and they are actually 17 … I mean, I’m a 53-year-old man and I have met a lot of women who could pass for 25 years old," said Huotari.

Asked whether it would have been appropriate for Morrissey to have a relationship with a 21-year-old Huotari said, "He’s a single man, and as a single man you have the right to date."

Other voters say that they no longer want Morrissey to be their representative.

"His personal life has been a mess for a good while and I just don’t want him representing me," said Robert Estes before casting his vote. "I think it’s time for him to go, I’m ready for a change."

Virginia Democrats arranged a nomination process that ensured Morrissey would not be the party’s nominee, so Morrissey is running as an independent and came into the race with a big spending advantage over both his opponents.

A group of 100 Democrats nominated former union leader Kevin Sullivan for the seat, and he has attempted to stay away from Morrissey as the election approached. He was a no-show at a candidate forum over the weekend, which turned chaotic as people protesting Morrissey filled the room.

The Republican candidate is local teacher Matt Walton, who also decided not to make ethical attacks against Morrissey part of his campaign. In a conversation with the Free Beacon on Monday evening, Walton refused to weigh in on the raid of Morrissey’s office scandal and said he is sticking to the issues.

After casting his vote at North Park Library on Tuesday morning, however, Walton said that Morrissey has "put a stain" on the district.

"The conduct of Morrissey has been a distraction to the district and has put a stain on it," said Walton. "I want to be somebody that focuses on issues and can work to get things done on education and jobs."

That pledge earned Walton the endorsement of Richmond’s U.S. congressman, Dave Brat (R., Va.).

"Republicans have the right solutions to turn our economy around, to create good jobs for our citizens, and to ensure our kids get a better education," said Brat in a statement over the weekend. "That’s why I encourage all voters of the 74th district, regardless of party, to vote for Republican Matt Walton in Tuesday’s special election."