RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Richmond mayoral candidate and ex-Virginia lawmaker who was jailed last year in a sex scandal involving a 17-year-old girl vowed Saturday to continue campaigning after being accused of making sexual advances and sending explicit text messages to a former legal client.
Kanika Shani Morris told The Richmond Times Dispatch that Joe Morrissey exposed himself to her in his law office and sent her lewd text messages. Morris told the newspaper that Morrissey gave her case to another attorney in his firm when she refused his advances, and that attorney pressured her into pleading guilty to failing to return a rental car.
Morris was released from jail Thursday after a Henrico County judge took the unusual step of allowing her to withdraw her guilty plea. Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor and Henrico police say they are investigating the matter.
Morrissey has said he sent “flirtatious” text messages to Morris, but denies doing anything inappropriate.
In a press conference Saturday, an attorney for Morrissey said another lawyer who was in the office with Morris and Morrissey the entire time says the woman’s story about Morrissey’s sexual advances is false.
Arnold Henderson also said the idea that Morris was pressured into taking a plea deal at the last minute is an “absolute lie.” He pointed to a letter that Morrissey’s firm had sent to Morris two weeks before her hearing outlining the plea agreement.
Henderson also called it questionable that the allegations are surfacing little more than a week before election day.
“Mr. Morrissey is a fighter. Mr. Morrissey is going to continue to campaign tirelessly, day and night, until the election,” Henderson said.
Morrissey told The Associated Press on Saturday that he will not comment further on the matter.
Morrissey, who is considered the front-runner in the race for Richmond mayor, has long been one of Virginia’s most colorful politicians.
Last year he spent his days at the General Assembly and his nights in jail after he entered an Alford plea to a misdemeanor charge 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.
Morrissey later married the woman in the case, and they have two children.
Morris provided the newspaper with copies of the text messages she says Morrissey sent to her. According to the text messages, Morrissey asked her on Feb. 14 to come by his office and told her to make sure she wears “fresh panties.” The text messages exchange took place less than three months after Morrissey got engaged to his now-wife and while she was pregnant with their second child.
Morrissey says Morris was briefly girlfriend of his eight years ago. Morris says she was never his girlfriend, but told the newspaper that she has known him for a while. She says Morrissey also exposed himself to her in his office at the General Assembly in 2008, which Morrissey strongly denies.