Plea deal in underage sex case lets Virginia lawmaker out of jail to attend legislative sessions
A plea deal with prosecutors will allow a member of the Virginia House of Delegates to fulfill his lawmaking duties while serving six months in jail for having sex with an underaged staffer, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, (D-Henrico) was sentenced to 12 months in jail with six months suspended for a single misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Prior to the plea bargain, Morrissey was facing up to 41 years in prison if convicted on four felonies and a misdemeanor charge after investigators discovered the lawmaker at his home with a 17-year-old girl who worked as a receptionist at his private law practice.
Under the terms of his deal, Morrissey could attend legislative sessions during the day while returning to jail in the evening.
In a note to the administrative law judge, Morrissey said he entered the plea to preserve his legislative duties, spare the alleged victim the difficulties of trial, and to care for a 2-year-old child that he had out of wedlock.
Morrissey agreed to the plea deal despite asserting that his phone and the phone of his the staffer had been hacked, with the hacker inserting incriminating sexual text messages and photos on their phones.
According to Morrissey’s biography, the unmarried lawmaker has three children.
In a twist to the case, the special prosecutor in the case told reporters on Friday that the now-18-year-old former associate of Morrissey is pregnant, “perhaps” with the 57-year-old Morrissey’s child, while adding there has been no paternity test.
A spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe said on Saturday that the lawmaker should step down.
“In light of his conviction on these disturbing charges, the Governor believes Del. Morrissey should resign immediately,” spokesperson Brian Coy said.
On Sunday, Morrissey announced at his church, New Kingdom Christian Ministries, that he will soon decide whether or not to resign in the wake of his conviction.
This will not be Morrissey’s first experience with jail. In 1991 he spent 5 days in jail for punching a defense attorney in the face during a heroin possession trial.
The prosecutor turned defense attorney once had his law license suspended and eventually revoked for a decade.