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Morrissey to get law office items back

(AP) After a tumultuous two-hour hearing, jailed Virginia lawmaker Joseph Morrissey left court Monday with the assurance that prosecutors will soon return office equipment and copies of files seized from his office last month in an investigation that led to new forgery and perjury charges against him.

The judge told Morrissey to “calm down” several times as the defendant — who is serving as co-counsel to the lawyer representing him — railed against police tactics and insisted prosecutors have no evidence against him. Show him the evidence, Morrissey said, and “I’ll plead guilty right now.”

Retired Arlington Circuit Judge Alfred D. Swersky, who was appointed to hear the case in Henrico County Circuit Court, admonished Morrissey to stick to the purpose of the hearing: his bid to get his property back.

“You keep wanting me to try this case now and I’m not going to do that,” Swersky said.

Morrissey, 57, is charged with fabricating a document that he presented as evidence in a previous case. In December, Morrissey was convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor after prosecutors accused him of having sex with a 17-year-old girl who worked in his law office. He was sentenced to six months in jail and is spending nights locked up and attending House of Delegates sessions during the day on work release.

The new four-count indictment accuses Morrissey of forging a document that purportedly shows that the teen’s father had agreed to pay $50 a week into her college fund. Morrissey introduced the document to support his claim that, on the night police found the teenager at his home, she had come there with her mother’s knowledge for legal advice after finding the college fund depleted.

The young woman’s mother, Deidre Warren, also faces three similar charges. She and Morrissey will be tried together April 28.

At Monday’s hearing, Morrissey said prosecutors didn’t want to return his office computer because they claimed it contained “child pornography” — sexually explicit photos of the girl that prosecutors had sent as part of the discovery process in the December case. After Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Theophani K. Stamos also mentioned the images, Morrissey complained about the “gratuitous reference” to pornography.

Morrissey also said the seizure of computers and a copying machine during the Jan. 12 search has brought his law practice to a virtual standstill. Stamos said prosecutors are happy to return materials they rule out as evidence in the case, but “we’re not there yet.”

Swersky said authorities can’t take property and hold onto it indefinitely. He ordered prosecutors to copy data from computers and the “brain” of the copying machine and return the equipment. He said prosecutors can keep paper files from Morrissey’s previous case but must provide copies to the defendant.

The judge set a June 1 hearing on prosecutors’ motion to subpoena four lawyers involved in the earlier case. Stamos said their testimony is needed to show that Morrissey “reached into a file folder and handed” the allegedly forged document to one of the attorneys.

— LARRY O’DELL, Associated Press

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