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Neely stays as prosecutor in Morrissey case

The judge in Del. Joe Morrissey’s sexual misconduct case has rejected Morrissey’s bid to banish both the special prosecutor and the criminal indictments.

In a four-page opinion, Stafford County Circuit Judge J. Martin Bass denied a defense motion to remove Spotsylvania County Commonwealth’s Attorney Bill Neely as special prosecutor.

Morrissey had argued Neely’s true motivation in bringing criminal charges was to get Morrissey disbarred, but Bass said the evidence failed to demonstrate personal animus.

“Neely conceded professional disdain for the defendant, but he has stated to the record, as an officer of the court, that he has no personal disdain for the defendant,” Bass wrote Sept. 3.

Morrissey claimed that Neely “tainted and undermined” the special grand jury proceedings by disclosing that Morrissey had rejected a plea deal, by filing a public “Bill of Particulars” to flesh out the indictments, and by mocking Morrissey’s statements to the jurors. Bass found no cause for disqualification of Neely, however.

Allowing Morrissey to address the grand jury at all was “unusually evenhanded, and in the Court’s experience, an unprecedented gesture,” Bass said.

Bass passed on any ethical issues arising from pretrial publicity, but he noted “neither side appears to have been particularly concerned with the secrecy of a grand jury proceeding.”

Bass also rejected Morrissey’s argument that the indictments themselves were defective under statutes governing special grand juries.

Trial in the case remains set for Dec. 15, Bass said.

Morrissey, 56, an attorney, former prosecutor and four-term state delegate, is charged with having sex with an under-aged staffer at his Henrico County office last August.

Morrissey has denied the charges, claiming that cell phone texts purporting to confirm the sexual relationship were planted by a third party.

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