Legal expert: Morrissey denial about teen relationship could backfire

Posted at 2:36 PM, Aug 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-30 09:20:30-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- One day after the Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney confirmed police were investigating an alleged incident that involved Delegate Joe Morrissey (D - Henrico) and a 17-year-old girl, the lawyer for the teen's mother said "there is no story here."

And our CBS-6 legal expert says that could prove a problem for Morrisey.

Reading from a prepared statement, attorney Rob Walker explained why the girl was at the delegate's Glen Allen home late Friday night.

"With the permission, blessing, approval and full knowledge of her mother, the young lady went to Mr. Morrissey's house to discuss a very sensitive, both personal and legal matter," Walker said Thursday. "My client knew when her daughter was going to be with Mr. Morrissey and knew when she would return."

Police sources told CBS 6 reporter Jon Burkett that officers went to Morrissey's Glen Allen home Friday at the request of the girl's father. The officers were told to tell Morrissey that the teenager's father wanted her to come home. The father and mother live in separate residences.

But when asked Wednesday about the investigation and the incident, Morrissey professed ignorance.

"Didn't know anything about it," he told Burkett. "Wish I could help you."

A day later, Walker called the story "salacious, titillating and terribly misleading."

"My client told the police that her daughter told her that at all times during the visit, Mr. Morrissey was a gentleman and acted entirely in a professional manner," Walker added. "My client's privacy and her daughter's has been violated and she is upset."

But CBS-6 legal expert Todd Stone says Morrisey saying one thing and an attorney claiming another, could cause more problems for Morrissey if prosecutors push forward and police charge the delegate, who himself is an attorney.

"Anytime a defendant in a case makes a statement to the press, police or anybody else, it can be used against him," Stone said.

Stone says the warrant CBS-6 obtained in Chesterfield showing a seizure of the teen’s cell phone, paints a pretty clear picture of where police are putting their resources.

"It tells us they think a sexual offense is going on,” said Stone. “And with ‘indecent liberties with a minor in a custodial role,’ that makes it go from a misdemeanor to a felony. That's a sex offender registry offense."

Stone points out the investigation involving a cell phone could take weeks to get a return on subpoenas, but that text messages and pictures could add a lot of evidence to an inquiry.

The girl's father told CBS 6's Jon Burkett Wednesday (Aug. 28)  he was attending a funeral in New York and would comment when he returned to town.

A message on Morrisey's personal cell phone refers all callers to his law office.