Irregular Joe: A pugnacious Virginia pol lands in hot water

Virginia's Capitol Building in Richmond. File photo. Virginia’s Capitol Building in Richmond. File photo.

It’s no secret that we here at the Odd Dominion lean a bit to the left. Luckily for us, Virginia Republicans make our job pretty easy, as barely a week goes by without some excitable elephant saying or doing something completely boneheaded somewhere in the Commonwealth.

But that certainly doesn’t preclude us from making fun of donkeys. In fact, we love it when an Old Dominion Dem does something exquisitely stupid—it allows us to even the playing field, and reinforces our belief that almost all politicians, at their core, are venal and untrustworthy creatures.

Which brings us (as you surely knew it would) to the ongoing saga of Delegate Joe Morrissey, a Richmond-based lawyer and well-known hothead who has recently found himself fighting both statutory rape and child pornography charges. But before we delve into that sordid saga, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.

A descendant of famed bare-knuckle brawler and U.S. Congressman John “Old Smoke” Morrissey, Joe Morrissey has lived a rather, shall we say, colorful life. After attaining degrees at the University of Virginia and Georgetown University Law School, Morrissey became a practicing attorney with a well-documented penchant for antagonistic behavior. As a prosecutor, his theatrics resulted in at least 10 contempt citations and five instances of being “jailed or forcibly detained” for misconduct. After having his law license suspended in 2001, Morrissey continued to solicit clients without mentioning his suspension, which prompted the Virginia State Bar to fully revoke his license in 2003 (it was reinstated in 2012, according to the Washington Post).

Despite all of this, Morrissey managed to get himself elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates as a Democrat in 2007, and soon distinguished himself as one of the more combative members in a chamber not exactly famous for self-restraint (prior to his recent troubles, Morrissey was best known for brandishing an unloaded AK-47 during a House gun control debate).

All of which leads us to Morrissey’s current imbroglio, which began last summer  when—according to court papers—police found a 17-year-old girl at Morrissey’s house around midnight. The girl had been a receptionist at Morrissey’s law office, and her father had reportedly expressed some concern about her whereabouts.

Although Morrissey, the girl, and her mother have all denied the charges, the resulting indictment alleges, among other things, that Morrissey and the girl had sex multiple times in his office in August 2013, and that he solicited and received a nude picture of her, which he later sent to a friend.

In addition, the prosecutor—Spotsylvania County Commonwealth’s Attorney William Neely—claimed in court papers that Morrissey and the girl shared a Norfolk hotel room in October 2013, and have “been seen out together socially” as recently as May.

For his part, Morrissey has angrily denied all of the charges and insists that the entire thing is a set-up, while his legal team have claimed that Neely is pursuing a decades-long personal vendetta.

But Morrissey didn’t help his case much when, during a rambling news conference on July 1, he repeatedly identified a young woman who purportedly “hacked” the phones of both him and his former receptionist in order to leave incriminating texts, and then proceeded to drop the f-bomb on live television while reading aloud a text found on his alleged paramour’s phone (“OMG, I just f—– my boss!”).

We have no idea where this is going, but we certainly hope that it lasts for a very long time. After all, it’s the summer season, when many loudmouthed politicians are on vacation, so we’re happy to take any scandal that comes along.

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