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Morrissey Faces Criminal Charges Tied to 2019 Elections

Joe Morrissey, right, behind podium, and his wife Myrna, left, against backdrop of the Jefferson Davis Monument
Joe Morrissey and his wife Myrna at a 2016 press conference calling for the removal of the Jefferson Davis Monument. (Craig Carper/VPM News)

State Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond City) faces three misdemeanor charges connected to a visit to a Richmond polling location during last year’s General Assembly elections.

Morrissey said he merely visited the Powhatan Community Center in East Richmond to deliver donuts to poll workers and called the charges “100% bulls---.”

The complaint alleges Morrissey held up voting, lingered by voting booths, and greeted people within 40 feet of the building entrance as he delivered donuts and took photos with poll workers. It cites three witnesses, one of whom also submitted photos and videos to investigators.

State law allows candidates to visit polling locations for up to ten minutes so long as they don’t come within 40 feet of the location’s entrance, intimidate voters, or hinder or delay election officers. 

Acting on a request from the Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation conducted an investigation and a special prosecutor with the New Kent county Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office filed charges on October 30, 2020.

Morrissey argued he delivered the donuts and acceded to the poll workers’ request for photos, but never blocked anyone from voting. He vowed to vigorously fight the charges.

“I'm going to kick their ass in court,” he said in an interview. “And whoever is responsible for doing this -- I will find out about it and I won’t let it go.”

Morrissey previously served three months in jail in connection with his 2013 relationship with a then-17 year-old employee. She and Morrissey are now married. 

The state senator questioned the timing of the charges and suggested they were connected to his recent criticism of Richmond Registrar Kirk Showalter, who has come under fire from Democrats for her handling of the 2020 elections.

In an email, Showalter called that claim “absolutely ridiculous.” She did not recall if a complaint was brought to her office but said she would have referred it to Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Colette McEachin.

“Such an allegation is an insult to the integrity of our Commonwealth’s Attorney as it suggests that she would allow herself to be manipulated in bringing criminal charges for petty spite,” Showalter said.

Morrissey also took aim at Attorney General Mark Herring, whose office signed off on the investigation.

“You have nothing f---ing better to do then spend time investigating somebody that distributes donuts,” Morrissey said. “F--- you, Herring.” 

Charlotte Gomer, a spokesperson for Herring, noted that Herring’s signoff was a formality to allow the state police investigation to proceed against an elected official but declined further comment. 

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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