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Morrissey fighting revival of criminal charges

Even as he steps away from a campaign for the state Senate, former Del. Joseph Morrissey is busy opposing the state’s effort to reinstate felony charges for a maneuver during a plea hearing that prosecutors say smacked of “gamesmanship.”

A Virginia Court of Appeals panel will hear arguments Monday in the state’s bid to revive charges that Morrissey lied under oath and presented a falsified document to a judge.

Those charges were dismissed in April when the judge decided the new charges were covered by an immunity clause in a prior plea deal, the deal in which Morrissey pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a 17-year-old girl.

A three-judge Court of Appeals panel granted the prosecution’s pretrial appeal June 11, clearing the way for a full hearing on the merits of the issues. That hearing is set for Monday.

In briefs filed with the court, state lawyers say the decision to toss the perjury and related charges against Morrissey was a “hyper-technical, rigidly formalistic” ruling, contrary to public policy.

Morrissey responded that the special provisions allowing prosecutors to appeal a pretrial ruling do not permit the appeal to be heard at all. The judge tossed the perjury charges against Morrissey on two bases, and only one can support a commonwealth appeal, Morrissey said in his brief.

Judge Alfred Swersky based his dismissal order on both double jeopardy and contract grounds, Morrissey said. Rulings on contract issues are not appealable by the state, Morrissey contends.

The former legislator also argues the broad “no prosecution” language of his initial plea agreement covers anything he might have done before Swersky accepted the plea agreement.

Morrissey is represented by Richmond attorney Anthony F. Troy. The state’s arguments are made by Senior Assistant Attorney General Robert H. Anderson III.

Morrissey’s statement Thursday withdrawing from a state Senate race made no mention of the pending appeal.

Morrissey had been challenging state Sen. Rosalyn R. Dance, D-Petersburg. He said a troubling medical condition led him to step aside from the campaign.

Morrissey’s colorful history includes disbarment and then reinstatement of his law license, frequent dissenting oratory in the House of Delegates and the allegations of his relationship with the teenage office staffer that sparked the recent criminal charges.

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