RICHMOND, Va. — A newly re-elected Virginia lawmaker hitched a ride from the jailhouse to the Statehouse to be sworn in, even as legislative leaders discussed how to throw him out.
Del. Joseph Morrissey, 57, who spends his nights in Henrico County Jail because of a sex-scandal conviction, was back in his familiar legislative arena Wednesday but under a new set of circumstances: Colleagues ignored him, he had to give up his old office and his desk on the House floor was put in a far corner.
He didn’t appear bothered by his pariah status and instead brimmed with defiant confidence. He said he wasn’t worried that both parties have repeatedly denounced him, saying he doesn’t belong in the oldest continuously operating legislative body in the Western Hemisphere.
“I’m confident in Joe Morrissey and I’m confident things will work out exactly the way they are supposed to,” Morrissey said.
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After resigning his seat in disgrace last month, the former Democrat ran in the special election as an independent, handily beating his Republican and Democratic challengers. He won nearly 43 percent of the vote Tuesday, in a largely minority district that twists through various counties near Richmond.
He was sworn in Wednesday morning, shortly before the state Legislature began its 2015 session.
Morrissey said he didn’t find out he had won re-election until after he had returned to jail Tuesday night. He was convicted last month of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Prosecutors accused him of having sex with a 17-year-old girl who worked for him. Morrissey and the girl, who is now 18 and pregnant, have denied it.
Prosecutors said nude photos of the 17-year-old were found on Morrissey’s cellphone and were reportedly shared with a friend. Morrissey, a bachelor who has fathered three children out of wedlock with three different women, has denied wrongdoing but entered a misdemeanor plea to avoid felony charges punishable by years in prison and automatic loss of his legislative position.
Morrissey, an attorney, has a history of fistfights, contempt-of-court citations and disbarment. He said he was resigning his seat in December after his conviction, but promptly began running for his old seat as an independent after he said Democrats blocked him from the party nominating process.
Inside his new office, filled with boxes, he put his right hand in the air and pledged to uphold the constitutions of the United States and Virginia. Underneath his suit, he wore an ankle bracelet so law-enforcement officials can keep tabs on him.
Officials in both parties have denounced Morrissey’s criminal history, but as of Wednesday appeared to have not decided what they should do with him, including possibly expelling him.
“We’re still considering all our options,” said House Democratic Minority Leader David Toscano.
It would take a two-thirds vote of the 100-member House to expel a member, something that hasn’t happened since 1876, according to House Clerk G. Paul Nardo.
Morrissey could also be censured by his colleagues and blocked from having any committee duties.
Material from The New York Times is included in this report.