If Joe Morrissey has his way, the Henrico jurors who decide his fate later this month will not hear testimony about his criminal record.
Nor will they hear about his Virginia State Bar disciplinary record.
Nor the months-long relationship investigators say he fostered with a 17-year-old girl before she began working at his law firm as a receptionist.
Nor the night that investigators say the two spent together in a Norfolk hotel months after police found them alone at Morrissey's Henrico home in August 2013 in the middle of the night.
Morrissey is a 57-year-old lawyer and state delegate who represents Charles City County and parts of Henrico and Prince George counties, Hopewell and Richmond in the General Assembly. He is facing four felonies and a misdemeanor charge alleging that he had sex with an underage girl at his law firm and distributed pornographic images of her using his cell phone.
His attorneys filed two separate motions in Henrico County Circuit Court on Nov. 26. One asks the court to bar the prosecution from bringing up Morrissey’s past “bad acts” in front of the jury. The filing also requests that the court bar the prosecution from detailing Morrissey’s relationship with the minor outside of the alleged incidents for which he was indicted by a special grand jury in June.
“The defendant’s contact with the minor, subsequent to the instant allegations, is not relevant to any element of the offenses charged,” the motion states.
James Maloney, the defense attorney named on the filing who represents Morrissey, did not respond to a request for comment as of publication time.
The other motion, if approved by a judge, would require the prosecution to prove Morrissey knew, “or should have known,” the age of the receptionist at the time of the alleged incidents.
A judge will hear the motions at a pre-trial hearing rescheduled for 2 p.m. today at Henrico Circuit Court. A jury trial is scheduled for Dec. 15.
William Neely, the longtime Spotsylvania commonwealth’s attorney appointed to handle the case, on Monday filed a response to the defense’s motion to bar mention of Morrissey’s professional missteps and past legal troubles. In the response, he characterized the filing as “premature and without merit.”
Specifically, the prosecutor took issue with the request to exclude information about the relationship between Morrissey and the 17-year-old girl before and after the alleged incidents occurred. Excluding details of the relationship, the motion states, would limit the prosecution’s ability to question the receptionist on the stand and, subsequently, hinder the jury’s ability to assess her credibility as a witness.
The response states that the teen's “infatuation” with Morrissey has led to conflicting reports provided to police during the investigation and the special grand jury.
It partially reads: “… to properly examine/cross-examine [the receptionist] … during trial it will be necessary to establish her relationship with the Defendant from 2013 to the present so as to demonstrate her bias as a likely adverse, but essential witness for the prosecution.”
Neely declined comment on the defense’s motions.
Morrissey’s attorneys also responded to a motion Neely filed in November. They rebuked the prosecutor’s request to release exhibits a special grand jury saw before indicting Morrissey.
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.