Virginia lawmaker who won re-election from jail faces new felony charges

SHARE Virginia lawmaker who won re-election from jail faces new felony charges

Virginia legislator Del. Joseph Morrissey. | AP file photo

RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia lawmaker who was just re-elected despite being jailed for a sex scandal with a teenager has been indicted on new felony charges, according to a special prosecutor.

The forgery and perjury indictment of Del. Joseph D. Morrissey was returned and sealed the day before the election, and announced Wednesday by Spotsylvania County Commonwealth’s Attorney William Neely.

The lawmaker now stands accused of forging a document he vouched for in court, and persuading the girl’s mother to swear to its authenticity as well. That woman, Deidre Warren, also was indicted on perjury and forgery charges. Morrissey faces up to 10 years on each count if convicted, Neely said.

Morrissey says the charges are false and he will fight them in court.

“This is a very harmful and mean-spirited blow, but I’ll do what I’ve always done. I’ll prevail,” Morrissey told reporters after arriving at the Capitol Wednesday for the legislative session.

Morrissey is spending nights in jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor but is allowed out on work release during the day. He accepted the misdemeanor conviction to avoid trial on charges of child pornography, soliciting a minor and taking “indecent liberties” with a 17-year-old — felonies punishable by decades in prison and the automatic loss of his legislative position.

After his conviction, the four-term Democrat resigned under pressure from his colleagues and then angered them by running as an independent in the special election to hold onto the seat, defeating a Republican and a Democrat last week on the eve of the start of the General Assembly session.

He has received a chilly reception in the House, where members are debating whether to censure him or kick him out.

“This is a truly painful and embarrassing chapter for the oldest continuously operating legislative body in the world,” House Speaker William J. Howell said after learning of the new charges. “The House will evaluate these new indictments as it pertains to disciplinary action.”

Morrissey, 57, has denied having sex with Myrna Pride, who worked as a receptionist in his law office at the time.

The young woman’s sisters and father said they got suspicious after finding sexually explicit text messages and nude photos sent between them on her phone. They tracked Morrissey and Pride from a restaurant one night in August 2013, and then called police, who found the teenager inside his home at midnight.

Pride — now 18 and pregnant — also has denied having sex with Morrissey, but says she still cares and worries about him as a friend.

The Associated Press usually does not disclose the names of alleged sex crime victims, but Pride has gone public with her side of the story.

Morrissey claimed that Pride came to his home that night in August 2013 not to have sex, but to get his legal help recovering child support from her father, Coleman Pride.

Neely said Morrissey presented a document in court last month to support this version. It appears to be a court order showing that Coleman Pride had agreed to pay $50 a month into a college fund for his daughter. But Neely said there is no court record of any child support order, and that the document “appears to be a fabrication.”


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