Va. lawmaker to resign, then seek seat in special election

Virginia Delegate Joe Morrissey announces his resignation from his 74th House District seat in the Virginia General Assembly, Wednesdy, Dec. 18, 2014, in Richmond, Va. Morrissey, speaking at a press conference in his office, said that his resignation will take effect on Jan. 13, 2015, the same day as the Special Election to fill the 74th District seat. Morrisey recently entered a plea in connection with accusations that he had an improper sexual relationship with a teenager.He was sentenced to 12 months in jail with six suspended but will ultimately serve three months, according to one of his attorneys. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, P. Kevin Morley)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia state lawmaker who recently entered a plea in connection with accusations that he had an improper sexual relationship with a teenager said Thursday he will let the voters decide whether he should stay or go.

Democratic Del. Joseph D. Morrissey announced that he has submitted his resignation but said he plans to run for the same seat in a special election set for Jan 13.

“It is the voters and not political pundits and not partisan caucuses that should decide who serves in office,” Morrissey said at a news conference in his Capitol office.

Morrissey struck a defiant tone, saying there is no precedent for a sitting lawmaker to resign for committing a misdemeanor crime.

He was sentenced to 12 months in jail with six suspended but will ultimately serve three months, according to one of his attorneys. Morrissey is in a work-release program that allowed him to work as a legislator and lawyer by day while spending nights in a Henrico County jail.

Morrissey’s own caucus and several other high profile Democrats have called on him to step down after he entered an Alford plea last week in Henrico County Circuit Court on a misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. In an Alford plea, a defendant acknowledges there is sufficient evidence for a conviction but doesn’t admit guilt.

According to prosecutors, Morrissey and a 17-year-old girl, who worked for him as a receptionist, had sex multiple times at his law office in August 2013 and texted their friends about it. Morrissey, 57, also procured a nude photo of the teen “to help him fantasize about their next encounter,” according to special prosecutor William Neely, and sent the picture to a friend.

Morrissey has vehemently denied the allegations and claimed his cellphone was hacked.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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