The commonwealth’s attorney in charge of prosecuting Del. Joe Morrissey (D-74th District) has filed a motion in Henrico County Circuit Court asking a judge to compel the legislator’s defense team to turn over key evidence to the state.
In June, a special grand jury indicted Morrissey, a 57-year-old lawyer who represents Charles City County and parts of Henrico and Prince George counties, Hopewell and Richmond in the General Assembly. He is charged with four felonies and a misdemeanor alleging that he had sex with a 17-year-old receptionist at his law firm and distributed pornographic images of her using his cell phone.
William Neely, the longtime Spotsylvania County commonwealth’s attorney appointed to handle the case, filed a motion on Nov. 14 to “compel reciprocal discovery” from the defense. Discovery is a pre-trial period in which both the prosecution and defense disclose statements, reports, expert witnesses or other evidence in either’s possession to limit surprises at trial.
According to the filing, Morrissey’s defense team has not yet provided the prosecution with “electronic forensic” evidence obtained from experts Morrissey publicly claimed would discredit the state’s case against him.
Despite the prosecution providing “a nearly 2,500 pages forensic report” to the defense, “the Defendant has yet to supply the Commonwealth with any of the report(s) of his retained electronic forensic expert although they have been requested,” the motion states.
In an email, Neely declined to comment on the motion, which will be discussed at a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Wednesday (Dec. 3) at 2 p.m. in Henrico Circuit Court. (Editor's note: This is an update reflecting a change from the previously scheduled time.)
The state’s case against Morrissey relies on text messages investigators deemed incriminating after they recovered them from both Morrissey’s and the 17-year-old’s phones. Morrissey told reporters outside of a July court hearing the messages were planted by a hacker, and he has retained “the best experts in the country” to prove it.
The court issued an order in August requiring Morrissey’s defense team to allow the prosecution “to inspect, copy or photograph any written reports (of forensic tests) and other scientific tests that may be within the accused’s possession, custody or control and which the defendant intends to proffer or introduce into evidence at trial or sentencing.”
The order specifies that the defense must do this “within a reasonable time, but not less than 10 days before the trial.” A jury trial is scheduled for Dec. 15; Morrissey’s defense team has until Dec. 5 to comply with the order.
Anthony Troy, one of Morrissey’s attorneys, says the defense intends to comply with all the rules of the court.
“There are certain deadlines in which you have to submit your reciprocal discovery and that deadline is not here yet,” Troy says. “Ten days before trial is not here yet. A lot of these motions are typical and, in some cases, premature.”
Neely has filed three other motions in recent weeks: one asking the court to release confidential special grand jury exhibits so the prosecution can introduce them at the trial; one to bar the defense from arguing in front of the jury that Neely has “prosecutorial bias,” a matter the court dismissed after a late-August hearing; and another to compel Morrissey to disclose to the prosecution his alibi, or whereabouts, on Aug. 20, 2013.
Editor’s note: See the December issue of Richmond magazine for an in-depth look at the case and Del. Joe Morrissey’s controversial career.