Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, 57, resigned his seat after being charged for a sex scandal involving a teenage employee but recently won it back during a special election, which he campaigned for from his office as a legislator by day, returning to jail at night to serve time for misdemeanor charges. Now, he’s being indicted on multiple new felony charges.
Morrissey was convicted last month for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was originally charged with multiple felony charges for being sexually involved with a young woman, prosecutors allege, but instead agreed to a plea deal requiring him to serve six months in jail for misdemeanor charges.
Prosecutors accused Morrissey of having sex with former 17-year-old employee Myrna Pride, saying nude photos of the girl from Morrissey’s cellphone were shared with a friend, AP reports.
Pride, now 18, is pregnant and both she and Morrissey said the accusations are not true. It is unclear whether Morrissey is the father.
His sentence was later reduced to 90 days with work release. Morrissey wears an ankle bracelet so that Virginia law enforcement can keep track of him while he goes to work during the day, and then he returns to jail at night.
Morrissey’s defense team released a new document showing that he and Pride were meeting to discuss legal problems she was having with her parents – not to engage in an illegal relationship.
The document is a fabricated court order, said special prosecutor to the case William Neely in an article in the Washington Post. However, who forged it is still under investigation.
Morrissey is accused of forging the document and persuading Pride’s mother, Deidre Lashawn Warren, to swear to its authenticity during her testimony, Virginia publication The Free Lance-Star said. Both are facing perjury and forgery charges.
Due to urges from the House, Morrissey resigned his seat until reelection time when he ran as an independent and won over his constituency with approximately 42 percent of votes.
Morrissey has been able to run for reelection despite his legal problems because the Constitution only requires that the person running lives in the state at hand, is at least 25 years old and has been a U.S. citizen for seven years. It’s up to the members of Congress in each state to determine whether a person, if elected, is qualified and can go through the process of expelling or suspending the him or her if enough votes are gathered.
Virginia House delegates have been disturbed by the sex scandal, and although Morrissey has been sworn in again, he was stripped of committee assignments, had to give up his old office and his desk on the House floor was put in a far corner, according to the AP.
“This is a truly painful and embarrassing chapter for the oldest continuously operating legislative body in the world,” said House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford). “The House will evaluate these new indictments as it pertains to disciplinary action,” he said in The Washington Post.
This is not the first time Morrissey has been in the news. In 1993, he gained the nickname “Fighting Joe” after engaging in a fistfight with another lawyer in court. He has also faced several contempt of court citations and lost his license to practice law but was later reinstated.
Morrissey is popular among voters, and is well liked for being a representative who fights for the underdog. Even if the House decides to expel him – this hasn’t happened since 1876 – Morrissey has a strong following of voters who could support him.