Virginia Delegate Joe Morrissey, a leading progressive voice in the General Assembly, has accepted a plea deal to the charge of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor.” The agreement stems from a relationship between the 57-year-old Democrat and a 17-year-old member of his legal staff.
Morrissey will serve three months in prison, but he has vowed to retain his seat in the state legislature.
Morrissey’s deal with prosecutors averts a trial on felony charges for having sex with a minor and possessing child pornography. He entered what is called an “Alford plea.” That means he maintains his innocence, but acknowledges there is enough evidence to convict him.
The trial was scheduled to begin next week. The minor, who works at Morrissey’s law practice, is pregnant.
In accepting the plea deal, Morrissey’s attorney maintained that the Democrat lawmaker was innocent. “Let me state unequivocally and uncategorically that he believes he is is [sic] not guilty of any crime; felony, misdemeanor — period,” said Morrissey’s attorney, Ward Armstrong.
At a court hearing earlier this year, Morrissey claimed that both his cell phone and the cell phone belonging to the teenager were hacked by unnamed persons trying to set them up.
Morrissey has a history of attracting controversy. During a debate on gun control last year, the Democrat brandished an AK-47 assault rifle he said was unloaded on the Assembly floor. He was also disbarred in 2001 and lost his law license two years later. His law license was reinstated three years ago.
Virginia Republican Party Chair Pat Mullins said Saturday, “Democrat Joe Morrissey should resign his seat immediately. Each day that he fails to do so is a disgrace not only to himself, but to the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
In a statement, Mullins said:
Should a man who has been convicted of taking advantage of a 17-year-old, and who will spend the upcoming General Assembly session in jail resign his post? It’s not a difficult question, and Democrats, the party that claims to carry the banner for women, should have taken about two seconds to answer it.