Virginia lawmaker jailed after sex crime allegations votes against ban on porn in prisons

Virginia General Assembly (Image from wikipedia.org)
A member of the Virginia House of Delegates, who can still show up to work at the State Capitol, despite currently serving jail time after engaging in a relationship with a minor, has now voted against a ban on “obscene materials” in state prisons.

Virginia Del. Joseph Morrissey was prosecuted for a misdemeanor charge and is currently in the middle of a six-month jail sentence following accusations that he had sex with his 17-year-old receptionist. However, through a work-release program, he can still vote on state legislation over a 12-hour period.

Morrissey said he could have easily voted for the ban to "avoid the childish comments and the petty jeers or sneers," according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Instead, on Wednesday, he voted against the measure that aims to keep pornography out of state prisons, just as it is banned in federal prisons. The bill easily passed by an 86 to 13 vote.

“The reason I voted ‘no’ is because I don’t believe the bill if challenged in court would survive a constitutional challenge. The bill does not describe what obscene materials is,” he said, according to the Washington Post.

Morrissey said he taught constitutional law in Ireland and Australia while he was disbarred in Virginia.

The sponsor of the bill, Delegate R. Steven Landes, said the legislation is intended to mirror the federal ban, and that community standards rules would apply.

Morrissey was charged in June with multiple felonies over the allegations that he had sex with the minor and shared nude photos of her.

In December, Morrissey was sentenced to six months in the Henrico County Jail upon entering an Alford plea – in which one does not admit to a crime but acknowledges that evidence would likely lead to a conviction – to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, thereby avoiding a possible felony conviction.

Morrissey would have faced more than 40 years in prison if a grand jury had convicted him on multiple counts.

After his plea deal, Morrissey agreed to resign his House of Delegates seat, which he had held since 2007. Yet the former Democrat angered the state political establishment when he announced that he would run for re-election as an independent in the special election to fill his seat.

On account of his popularity in his Richmond-area district, he easily regained his seat during the special election in January just before the start of Virginia’s legislative session.

Given the Henrico County Jail’s work-release program, Morrissey, 57, is able to leave jail for 12 hours during the day as long as he reports back by 8 pm, according to reports.

A second indictment against him was unsealed in January, alleging that during the earlier case, he submitted a forged document as evidence and that he lied under oath. He is due back in court next week.