Joseph D. Morrissey, Va. lawmaker, indicted for improper sexual relationship with teen girl
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A Virginia legislator was indicted Monday on charges that he had an improper sexual relationship with a teenage girl, accusations the Democratic lawmaker denied and pledged to fight.
According to a special prosecutor's statements in court papers, state Del. Joseph D. Morrissey and the 17-year-old girl had sex multiple times at the legislator's law office in August 2013, and both texted their friends about the encounter. The next morning, Morrissey texted the girl and asked for "a nude photograph of her to help him fantasize about their next encounter," said the prosecutor, Spotsylvania County Commonwealth's Attorney William Neely.
Neely also alleged the girl sent a nude photo to Morrissey that he then sent to a friend. Police recovered the messages and the photo, according to the charging documents, which identified the girl by her initials.
The Associated Press does not generally identify the alleged victims of sex-related crimes.
Morrissey, 56, of Henrico County faces felony charges of indecent liberties with a minor, possession and distribution of child pornography, and electronic solicitation of a minor. He also is charged with a misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Morrissey's attorneys issued a written statement calling the allegations "baseless and without any factual support" and said Morrissey looks forward to clearing his name in court.
A former Richmond prosecutor who has served in the House of Delegates since 2008, Morrissey is one of Virginia's most outspoken state lawmakers. He frequently gives lengthy speeches from the floor of the House of Delegates, and last year drew national attention when he brandished an assault rifle during a floor speech advocating greater gun control.
A Henrico County Circuit Court special grand jury was convened after a man called police last August to check on the welfare of his 17-year-old daughter. Police said they found the girl with Morrissey at the legislator's home. The girl and Morrissey denied any impropriety.
Morrissey's attorney, Anthony Troy, said at the time that the girl worked in Morrissey's law office and that she had gone to her boss's home for advice about family problems. He said there was nothing inappropriate about their relationship.
The girl's mother also said through an attorney last year that she knew about her daughter's visit to Morrissey's home and that nothing improper occurred, according to news media reports at the time.
"This is the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that we are aware of a person being indicted for an offense that the alleged victim and her family plainly stated did not occur," Troy and four other attorneys for Morrissey said in Monday's written statement. Franklin County Republican state Sen. Bill Stanley is one of Morrissey's attorneys.
Neely said in a written statement that he convened a grand jury because the girl's mother "had been less than cooperative with the police investigation and had given conflicting and contradictory statements to police."
Neely said in court papers that Morrissey's relationship with the teen continued after she stopped working at his law firm last August. They spent the night together in a Norfolk hotel room last October and have "been seen out together socially" as recently as May, Neely said. He said Morrissey also recently helped her purchase a new car.
Morrissey's attorneys accused Neely of harboring a 20-year personal vendetta against their client, and said Neely ignored evidence that could have "clearly demonstrated" Morrissey's innocence.
The attorneys did not elaborate as to what that evidence is, but Troy said in a brief interview that the purported victim's phone may have been hacked.
Neely denied having a vendetta against Morrissey and said in court records there's no evidence that either Morrissey's phone or the girl's phone was hacked.
Morrissey is no stranger to controversy. His law license was suspended after he had been cited for contempt 10 times and he was jailed or forcibly detained for misconduct five times, according to court papers. His license was revoked in 2003 for failing to tell clients he had been suspended. The Virginia Supreme Court reinstated his license in 2012.