Outgoing Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam gave a farewell present to a fellow Democrat last week by pardoning a Democratic state legislator who had an illicit relationship with an underage girl.
State Sen. Joe Morrissey was convicted in 2014 on a misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, he’d entered an Alford plea to the charge — not admitting guilt but acknowledging that the state had evidence that would likely result in a conviction.
The charge focused on a relationship Morrissey had with a 17-year-old assistant at the law firm where he worked. Morrissey was a 57-year-old state delegate at the time, according to Times-Dispatch.
Virginia’s outgoing governor has pardoned a state senator who was jailed after a sex scandal that involved a 17-year-old receptionist at his law firm. https://t.co/e0bdNVwLKX
— WUSA9 (@wusa9) January 15, 2022
The pardon came through on Thursday, according to the Times-Dispatch. Northam’s last full day in office was Friday. On Saturday, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took the oath of office.
Lizzie Hylton, legislative director for the green energy advocacy group Clean Virginia was incensed, publishing a Twitter post with a reference to sexual assault allegations against Northam’s Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
Thanks @GovernorVA for spitting in the face of me and every other survivor of sexual assault in VA on your way out of office. What a capstone after YEARS of silence on the rape allegations against @LGJustinFairfax.
And to think I worked on your campaign in '17. https://t.co/EAyxoQNCWb
— Lizzie Hylton (@Liz_Hylton) January 14, 2022
“Never in my life have I been so ashamed to be a Democrat,” she wrote on Twitter. “Thanks @GovernorVA for spitting in the face of me and every other survivor of sexual assault in VA on your way out of office.”
Morrissey later married the girl with whom he was involved. He and his now-wife, Myrna, have four children, the Times-Dispatch reported.
Morrissey had to serve six months in jail, but was allowed to work as a state delegate through a work-release program, spending nights in jail, according to the ne In 2019, he won election as a state senator.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued an eleventh-hour pardon to state Sen. Joe Morrissey, who was convicted in 2014 for a misdemeanor count over a relationship with a 17-year-old receptionist at his law firm who later became his wife.https://t.co/9IhdE2V8NS
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) January 15, 2022
“To say that I was extremely pleased with what the governor did would be, perhaps for me, the understatement of the 2022 General Assembly session,” he said, according to the Times-Dispatch.
“Most importantly, my wife is grateful,” he said.
This is Joe Morrissey here in a picture, which he willingly shared, with the assistant (now wife). He is a cartoonishly disgusting and it’s reprehensible for the governor to pardon him while people waste away for crimes that don’t even exist in this state anymore https://t.co/gXx6RmhbNG pic.twitter.com/q4NrUHIUBl
— Theo (@the0hansen) January 14, 2022
The pardon petition made the point that the relationship was consensual.
“In 2013 it was alleged that Joe and Myrna engaged in consensual sexual intercourse,” the pardon petition stated, according to the Times-Dispatch. “Assuming that this happened, it is important to consider today’s reality. It should also be noted that when Myrna applied for a job with Mr. Morrissey, she misrepresented her age when she submitted her resume …
“Myrna will be the first to acknowledge that she was not in any way manipulated by Joe and that she was in no way coerced by him. … They worked together, they were attracted to each other, they fell in love, married, and are raising four (4) wonderful children together. A beautiful and happy family living the American Dream.”
“I was a mature woman who knew exactly what I was doing,” Myrna Morrissey wrote in an affidavit submitted with the pardon petition, according to the Times-Dispatch.
“This prosecution continues to hang over our family.”