Virginia Del. Joe Morrissey pleads not guilty to new charges

By LARRY O'DELL
Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia lawmaker pleaded not guilty Monday to felony charges of fabricating a document that he presented as evidence in a previous case, one that landed him in jail for having an inappropriate relationship with a teenager.

In December, Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, 57, was convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor after prosecutors accused him of having sex with a 17-year-old employee of his law office. He was sentenced to six months in jail and is spending nights locked up and attending General Assembly sessions during the day on work release.

The new four-count indictment accuses Morrissey of forging a document that that he vouched for in court and persuading the teenager's mother to attest to its authenticity. The document purportedly shows that the teen's father had agreed to pay $50 a week into her college fund.

Morrissey introduced the document to support his claim that on the night police found the teenager at his home, she had come there with her mother's knowledge for legal advice after finding the college fund depleted. Police went to the house in response to a complaint from the girl's father, who suspected inappropriate contact between his daughter and Morrissey.

That police visit led to the investigation of Morrissey.

Morrissey's attorneys insist the father's signature on the college fund agreement is legitimate. Prosecutors and the father say the document was forged.

The young woman's mother, Deidre Warren, also pleaded not guilty Monday to three similar charges. She and Morrissey will be tried together. The judge agreed to allow the lawmaker to serve as his own co-counsel at the three-day jury trial, which he set for April 28.

Retired Arlington Circuit Judge Alfred D. Swersky also set a Feb. 23 hearing on Morrissey's motion to have case files and computers seized by police returned to him.

"In my office now, no legal work is being done except receiving phone calls," Morrissey said.

Police executed the search warrant on Jan. 12, the day before Morrissey won a special election to retain his legislative seat.

The four-term Democrat resigned under pressure from colleagues after his December conviction, then ran as an independent in the special election that was called to fill the seat the day before the General Assembly convened.

Legislative leaders from both parties have discussed censuring or expelling Morrissey, but so far he has only been stripped of his committee assignments and shunned by his colleagues.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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