Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, D-Henrico, broke his monthslong silence Tuesday over allegations of a sexual relationship with an underage receptionist at his law office, addressing a battery of television cameras with a blistering denunciation of a special prosecutor and his evidence.
Charged Monday by a special grand jury with four felonies and a misdemeanor that could land him in prison for up to 41 years if he is convicted, Morrissey said he wanted to address the charges now instead of waiting to do so at trial. He declared that “there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell” that he will resign his House of Delegates seat over the allegations.
Glancing at a sheaf of papers with handwritten notes, the 56-year-old delegate and veteran defense attorney named names, belittled prosecution evidence and said expert testimony will reveal the alleged crimes as the work of a jealous woman, 24, whose advances were turned away by Morrissey’s alleged teenage lover, now 18.
The jilted woman, Morrissey said, hacked into cellphones where false evidence was planted, including a nude torso image of the receptionist that is the foundation of some of the charges.
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In the hot sun in front of the Henrico County courts complex, Morrissey said one of the nation’s top experts in detecting tampered communications devices has found that Morrissey’s cellphone and that of the former receptionist did not originally contain the illegal material.
“The scientific evidence (of hacking) is overwhelming,” Morrissey said. “To say there is no subjective evidence is disgraceful.”
William Neely, the longtime Spotsylvania County commonwealth’s attorney who was appointed to lead the grand jury’s investigation, has said he will not comment on the probe that got underway in May after months of police work by Henrico detectives.
Neely was among lawyers across the state who vehemently objected in 2011 to Morrissey regaining his license to practice law. In statements released to the news media, Morrissey’s supporters have argued that Neely cannot act in an unbiased manner toward Morrissey because of the earlier comments about Morrissey’s law license.
Morrissey also attacked Neely’s claim of an effort to influence the receptionist by providing Morrissey’s law firm’s Lexus to her for several weeks, something that Morrissey said occurred because the young woman had had a collision in her own car. She used her own money later to buy a vehicle.
Morrissey said family members of the receptionist have a taped recording of the alleged hacker admitting that she had done so, and on Tuesday Morrissey quoted the allegedly false text messages in which the receptionist and Morrissey allegedly admit having sex.
A key date, according to Neely and the indictments, was Aug. 20 last year, just weeks after the alleged victim began working at Morrissey’s office, where she had identified herself as 22 years of age.
In a bill of particulars, Neely alleged that on Aug. 20 the young woman and Morrissey “after work … engaged in repeated consensual acts of sexual intercourse” in Morrissey’s office.
On Tuesday Morrissey said his schedule shows he was in Charles City County that evening to meet with people regarding farm issues. But Neely said text messages the next day attest to the encounters.
Morrissey was scheduled to be arraigned in Henrico Circuit Court on Tuesday morning, but the proceeding was delayed for unexplained reasons and has not been rescheduled. A defendant sometimes enters a plea at the proceeding and a prospective trial date is established.
Morrissey attacked the charges against him for nearly 30 minutes Tuesday with one television station shutting down a live broadcast from the front of the Henrico courts building when Morrissey used an expletive as he quoted an allegedly planted text message.
“That did not happen,” Morrissey said of the sex allegation. He said the receptionist, who no longer works at the law firm, was asked by detectives who’d been summoned to Morrissey’s residence in August last year if there had been any improprieties.
“She said, incredulous, absolutely not,” Morrissey said.
The Morrissey ordeal started over concerns by the receptionist’s father over her relationship with Morrissey. But on Tuesday, Morrissey said the receptionist had been beaten by her father and she had come to Morrissey for advice, visiting him at his home Aug. 23 near Virginia Center Commons.
The father followed his daughter to Morrissey’s home and waited for police, Morrissey said.
On Monday, lawyers assisting Morrissey said that six months ago Morrissey rejected Neely’s offer to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor.
Now Morrissey is facing multiple felonies.
“The evidence will show that Del. Morrissey never solicited, possessed or distributed any pornographic images,” a statement issued to the news media Monday reads.
“The only obscenity is what Mr. Neely has done by virtue of charging Del. Morrissey.”
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