Virginia Democratic governor Ralph Northam on Friday pardoned a state legislator who served jail time in an underage sex case, in one of the outgoing governor’s final acts before leaving office.
Northam pardoned Democratic state senator Joe Morrissey, 64, who was charged with having a sexual relationship with his 17-year-old, part-time receptionist and pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 2014. After serving a three-month jail sentence, Morrissey had a child with the victim and the couple married when she turned 18.
Morrissey, who won reelection to the House of Delegates while campaigning from jail in 2015, told the Washington Free Beacon on Friday that he “absolutely” felt vindicated by Northam’s decision to pardon him.
“I was absolutely thrilled that the governor pardoned me. My wife and I are most delighted,” said Morrissey when reached by phone. “However, the people who will be most affected by this and who will in the future be the most grateful are our four little children.”
Northam, who leaves office on Saturday, is best known for dressing up in either blackface or a Ku Klux Klan hood and declining to answer questions about it or resign. He will be succeeded by Republican governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, a businessman and Virginia father of four.
Morrissey has denied that he knowingly carried out a sexual relationship with his now-wife while she was a minor and claimed explicit text messages from their phones stating otherwise were planted by hackers.
Morrissey has a long history of tangling with the law. As a county prosecutor in the early 1990s, he twice served jail time for punching an opposing defense lawyer and for writing a letter to a judge that was deemed threatening. He later had his law license suspended after he allegedly attempted to settle a rape case in exchange for donations to charities he selected.
After he was convicted of assault for punching his handyman in 1999, Morrissey was barred from practicing law in federal courts for allegedly trying to bribe a Habitat for Humanity employee to falsify his community service hours.