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Special prosecutor named in Morrissey case

Special prosecutor will oversee investigation involving teenage girl

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A special prosecutor has been appointed to oversee an investigation into the relationship between Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, D-Henrico, and a 17-year-old girl who formerly worked in his office, Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor said Tuesday.

Retired Judge Martin Bass, of the 15th Judicial Circuit, has been appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court to oversee the case. Bass named Spotsylvania County Commonwealth’s Attorney William F. Neely as the special prosecutor.

“I felt this was the appropriate time to make this request because, up to this point, this has been a routine investigation following the typical trajectory of investigations handled by this office,” Taylor said in a statement.

“However, now, moving forward, the investigation is at a juncture where strategic and critical decisions will be made,” she said. “I think it is appropriate for those decisions to be made by someone outside of this jurisdiction and with no prior relationships with any of the individuals potentially involved.”

Taylor said the appointment of a special prosecutor “will continue to ensure that the public can have complete confidence and trust in the ongoing proceedings.”

Attorney Anthony F. Troy, who is representing Morrissey in the matter, said he had not yet been informed of the appointment of the special prosecutor.

“I know of no charges that should properly be brought,” Troy said.

Morrissey declined to comment Tuesday.

In August, Henrico County police were called to a home that Morrissey owns by the father of a 17-year-old girl. Police found the girl at the home, spoke to her mother and allowed the girl to leave.

The girl had been hired as a part-time receptionist at Morrissey’s office after claiming on her résumé to be 22, and went to the home to discuss a family matter with Morrissey with her mother’s approval, according to an attorney who used to work for Morrissey and now represents the girl.

The girl has told authorities that she did not have a sexual relationship with Morrissey, and Morrissey has said he had “no relationship with her at all.”

Taylor said Tuesday that the move to appoint a special prosecutor is in keeping with her earlier statements that she would remove herself from the case as it neared completion.

“This is the right time for me to step aside,” she said Tuesday, stressing that she had turned over monitoring of the case’s progress to a deputy, Deana Malek. When news about Morrissey’s relationship with the young woman first broke and was under police investigation, Taylor said she did not regard her political ties to Morrissey and his help in familiarizing her with the county to be prejudicial.

Taylor won a three-way battle for the prosecutor’s job, relying heavily on support in the eastern part of Henrico where Democrats reside in great number and where Morrissey has had a longtime presence.

The Supreme Court appointed Bass after all five circuit court judges in Henrico recused themselves, according to the Supreme Court. Bass appointed Neely as special prosecutor.

“I don’t know anything about it,” Neely, who became Spotsylvania’s first full-time prosecutor in 1988, said of the Morrissey investigation.

Neely said he will talk with Henrico police investigators in coming weeks but is unaware of any developments in the case that might have sparked the appointment of Bass or himself.

“I’ll be taking a fresh look at the case and see what merit there is,” he said.

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A special grand jury charged Monday that Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, D-Henrico, had sex with a minor and solicited pornographic images of the 17…

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