It’s bad enough that Virginia’s Democrats failed to remove its scandal-plagued statewide officeholders from office over the past year. Now its voters plan to send a scandalous blast from the past back to Richmond. Move over, Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, and Mark Herring — here comes “Fighting Joe” Morrissey again, back five years after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor related to getting an underage staffer pregnant.
By the way, he’s no relation to me … thankfully:
A scandal-tarred pariah to Virginia’s Democratic Party only five years ago, Joe Morrissey on Tuesday took a giant step toward returning to the General Assembly despite fierce opposition from his party’s leaders.
“It’s somewhat sweet that three governors campaigned against me,” said Morrissey, 61, as he celebrated with supporters at a Mexican restaurant in Petersburg after defeating state Sen. Rosalyn R. Dance (Petersburg) in the Democratic primary.
Give Morrissey (no relation!) credit — he swore five years ago he’d be back, and yesterday he pulled off the trick. As our alum Noah Rothman wrote at the time, Morrissey took an Alford plea to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Here’s how the Washington Post described the situation at the time, when Morrissey finally resigned his seat:
There were the nude photos and explicit text messages that prosecutors said Morrissey and the girl exchanged — and a claim from the delegate that their phones had been hacked by the girl’s spurned lesbian ex-lover. There is the girl’s pregnancy, and the prosecutor’s claim that the child is “perhaps” Morrissey’s. (The delegate isn’t saying.)
And most startling of all was the prospect that Morrissey, sentenced to six months in jail but able to leave daily on work release, could show up at the Capitol by day to pass laws — and sleep behind bars at night for breaking them.
The child did turn out to be Morrissey’s (NO RELATION), who was in his mid-50s at the time, despite earlier denials and claims that the girl had denied having sex with him as well. He later married the staffer and has had three more children with his now-wife Myrna. Morrissey put his family front and center for this comeback campaign without apology, cementing his reputation as “the Marion Berry of Virginia politics,” in the words of one analyst.
But wait — there’s more! Even after serving out his sentence on the misdemeanor conviction, Morrissey (NO RELATION DAMMIT!) has other scandals on his record. He has twice been disbarred in Virginia, most recently just last year on ethics charges, some of which related to false statements in the bar’s investigation of his relationship with Myrna. He’s also gotten into two famous fistfights, one of which cost him nearly $600,000 in a lawsuit and the other of which took place outside a courtroom in which Morrissey was prosecuting a case. That cost him five days in jail in 1991.
Less amusingly, Joe [NAME REDACTED] got indicted for bribery two years later. Although a jury later acquitted him, the state bar suspended his license:
His 1993 reelection bid collapsed when he was indicted on bribery and perjury charges. The indictment grew out of Morrissey’s handling of a rape case in which he reduced the charge to a misdemeanor in exchange for the defendant pleading guilty and the defendant’s father paying $25,000 to the victim.
Morrissey also designated charities for the defendant’s father to contribute another $25,000, an arrangement he never disclosed to the victim.
After he lost the primary election, a jury acquitted him of the charges. But a judicial panel suspended his law license for six months, ruling that his handling of the rape case was unethical.
That would put “ol’ what’s his name’s” suspensions at three, at least two of which relate to ethics violations.
One might suspect that a few Virginia Democrats would secretly root for a Republican to win this seat in this fall’s general election. Surprise! Republicans didn’t field a candidate for this seat, which means Morrissey (aaaargh) will get a default return trip to the state legislature. Unless he gets arrested for something else in the meantime.
That’s quite a collection of party leaders that Virginia Democrats have produced, eh? We have two fans of blackface, another accused by two women of rape, and now Joe Morrissey, who’s been accused of practically every other ethical and legal violation and found guilty on enough of them over the years. All that’s missing in the Old Dominion is a Mount Rushmore of Shamelessness.