The good voters of Virginia have spoken. They apparently wanted to cement their home, just outside Richmond, firmly in place as an American laughingstock.
Done! Thanks to them, the Virginia legislature began its 2015 session Wednesday with a jailbird on the House floor.
Fightin’ Joe Morrissey, a Democrat-turned-independent, won his Henrico district seat Tuesday night just as he had to report back to his jail cell.
Too bad he didn’t have the swagger and quick wit of convicted former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards, who predicted in 1983: “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.” Edwards won.
Add a teenage girl to that quote, and take away Edwards’s rakish charm, and you’ve got Morrissey.
Morrissey, in case you haven’t been following his crazy saga, is the delegate who entered an Alford plea last month to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Investigators said the 57-year-old legislator was having sex with a then-17-year-old receptionist at his law firm, had nude pictures of her on his phone and allegedly showed those photos to a pal.
She’s now 18 and pregnant. A prosecutor said that Morrissey is “perhaps” the father. The bachelor already has three kids by three women.
In an Alford plea, a defendant doesn’t have to admit wrongdoing but does admit that there is enough evidence for a conviction, and the court treats it as a guilty plea. Morrissey was sentenced to 12 months in jail with six months suspended. But he has a work-release arrangement that lets him practice law and campaign by day and serve his time at night.
On Tuesday, he had to report back to jail before the vote tally was finished. Not that there were many to count: The vast majority of residents couldn’t be bothered to show up at the polls. (The district also includes parts of Richmond and Charles City County.)
Morrissey won 42 percent of the ballots cast, running against a Republican and a Democrat who had lackluster attributes, such as not being in jail. But only 2,840 people voted for him.
The thousands of people who stayed home probably didn’t want to miss Episode 16 of “Pretty Little Liars.”
Or maybe they want to transform Virginia into some kind of political reality show. There’s certainly plenty to work with. Former governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, put on a boffo performance in court to rival any “Real Housewives of New Jersey” familial spat.
And now this? Read the details of Morrissey’s plea on the Spotsylvania commonwealth’s attorney’s Web site to get all the stuff we can’t print. And see why it’s preposterous that Morrissey is claiming that he was just helping an innocent teen with her child-support case.
A raid on his law office the night before an election? The angry father of the teen girl confronting him publicly? Made for TV, folks. Bravo.
The other Virginia delegates are now stuck. Some have pledged to find a way to get rid of Morrissey.
And for good reason. This guy is a human train wreck. He’s faced disbarment; his law license has been suspended and revoked; he was in jail before for a courthouse fistfight; and he was charged after another fight, then capitalized on it with his “fighter” campaign, decorating ads and his office with boxing gloves.
When he was indicted in this sex scandal last summer, he said that the accusations were untrue and that he worried about his political career — which seems to be the one certain thing he keeps fighting for.
“Unless I’m entirely vindicated,” he told The Washington Post’s Paul Schwartzman over the summer, “it will be a career-ender.”
Surprise! Even the voters exceeded Morrissey’s wild and bombastic expectations.
At this point, the House of Delegates needs to ignore him. The voters had their chance to get rid of him and didn’t.
They deserve the guy. And we get to keep writing about him.
Correction: An earlier version of this column included gave an incorrect number of registered voters for the 74th District. To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/dvorak.