Grand jury indicts Joe Morrissey over relationship with teen girl

Posted at 2:27 PM, Jun 30, 2014

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. - A special grand jury has indicted attorney and Virginia State Del. Joe Morrissey (D - Henrico) on five charges including supervisory indecent liberties with a minor, electronic solicitation of a minor, possession of child pornography, distribution of child pornography and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The nine member grand jury met four times in the past month -- indicting Morrissey Monday after an hour of deliberations.

If convicted on all charges, Morrissey could face up to 30 years in prison according to Special Prosecutor William Neely.
Neely was appointed after Henrico prosecutors found themselves in a conflict of interest.

The indictment says the investigation began following the alleged victim's father contacting police around 11 pm on 8/23/13.

It also states that the victim lied about her age in order to work at Morrissey's law office initially but that Morrissey quickly discovered she was actually underage.

Morrissey is accused in the Bill of Particulars of having sex with the girl in his office on multiple occasions.

"Did sexual penetration occur?" CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George asked.

"It would seem that way from the evidence yes," Neely said.

According to the papers, Morrissey is alleged to have sent text messages to the alleged victim confirming their "sexual liaison" while also requesting a nude photograph be sent "to help him fantasize about their next encounter."

The indictment papers state the victim then sent Morrissey a photograph which he then transmitted to a friend.

The papers ---which were handed out following the grand jury deliberation --- also state that Morrissey was seen in public with the girl as recently as this past May and that he helped her purchase a new car.

The papers state that the victim "remains under the influence of the Defendant."

CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone said electronic data will be tough for Morrissey to combat but that the charge that he had sex with the girl may be easier to refute since the girl's attorney has repeatedly said nothing illegal occurred.

"Clearly the lawyer for the victim in the case has indicated nothing happened and I think that is part of the prosecutors problem that they have a reluctant witness," Stone said.

William Neely responded to accusations that he is out for "Morrissey revenge" since he voted to disbar him years ago.

"I am just doing my job, I have no bias against Mr. Morrissey one way or another," Neely said.

Nelly also said that accusations that Morrissey's phone was hacked are also inaccurate.

Morrissey's attorneys maintained their client's innocence during a news conference Monday afternoon.

“This is the first time in the history of the commonwealth that we are aware of a person being indicted for an offense that the alleged victim and her family plainly stated did not occur,” attorney Amy Austin said. "The evidence will show that Delegate Morrissey never solicited, possessed, or distributed and any pornographic images." [BONUS: Watch the complete news conference in the below video player.]

"I appreciate the service of the Grand Jury and the seriousness with which they and Spotsylvania County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Mr. Bill Neely, approached this matter," Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor said in a statement. "I am confident that, going forward, the same seriousness of purpose will prevail and the justice system will do its job, whatever its determination."

The indictment comes one year after an investigation began into Morrissey, 56, and an alleged relationship with a 17-year-old law firm employee. The employee, now 18, has maintained nothing inappropriate nor illegal happened between them.

“It is indefensible that the prosecutor would spend nine months and hundreds of thousands of  taxpayer dollars investigating a crime, that according to my client, never occurred,” the female employee's attorney Sherri Thaxton said earlier this month.

Police began investigating last August when the 17-year-old girl's father called police and said his daughter was at the delegate’s home.

A lawyer for the teen’s mother said the girl was at Morrissey’s house discussing a highly sensitive personal and legal matter. The lawyer said the teen had her mother’s permission to be there.

Morrissey served as Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney in the 1990s. He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2007.

Depend on CBS 6 News and for updates on this developing story.