Republicans and Democrats are calling on Del. Joseph D. Morrissey (D-Henrico) to resign from the Virginia House of Delegates after his conviction Friday on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Morrissey was given a 12-month jail sentence with six months suspended in a case stemming from his connection with a 17-year-old female receptionist.
The terms of his sentence allow Morrissey to continue to serve in the General Assembly while incarcerated. But Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and the leader of the House Democratic Caucus are urging him not to come back in light of his conviction on what a spokesman for the governor called “disturbing charges.”
Morrissey entered an Alford plea to one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Alford pleas allow the accused to maintain innocence but acknowledge that there is enough evidence for a conviction.
Prosecutors had accused him of having sex with the receptionist who worked at his law firm and of possessing child pornography — allegedly a photo of the teenager. Morrissey and the girl have both said their cellphones were hacked and incriminating text messages planted by a third party. Their relationship was not sexual, Morrissey has said.
“This is a very troubling case,” House Minority Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville) said in a statement Saturday, “and disqualifies him from serving in the House.” Toscano added that “we are actively exploring all available options, including removal, if he does not [resign].”
Senate Democrats also called for Morrissey to go.
“Virginians expect and deserve representatives whose conduct — especially towards children — is above reproach,” said Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (Fairfax).
The chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, Pat Mullins, likewise called for Morrissey’s resignation, calling him “a disgrace not only to himself, but to the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
A two-thirds majority vote of the House is required to expel a member.
Local news stations reported that Morrissey, put on work release, is set to address his future plans at 10 a.m. Sunday outside New Kingdom Christian Ministries in Richmond.