Virginia’s outgoing governor has pardoned a state senator who was jailed after a sex scandal that involved a 17-year-old receptionist who later became his wife.
Sen. Joe Morrissey told The Associated Press that Gov. Ralph Northam, a fellow Democrat, issued a pardon for the 2014 misdemeanor Thursday.
“I’m very grateful to the governor,” Morrissey said Friday.
“As I’ve said repeatedly on the floor of the state Senate: When you show compassion to other people and mercy, it’s not a sign of weakness, but usually just the opposite – strength,” Morrissey added.
Morrissey‘s pardon was first reported by The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Northam leaves office Saturday. He said in a news release that he granted pardons to more than 1,200 Virginians during the past four years, including exonerations for eight people who were wrongfully convicted.
“Virginians are forgiving people, who believe in second chances,” Northam said in a statement. “When people make mistakes, and pay their debts, they deserve the opportunity to return and be productive members of society.”
The pardon stems from a scandal that began when Morrissey was in the House of Delegates nearly eight years ago. He resigned his seat after being convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, his receptionist at his law firm.
Morrissey won reelection as an independent in a special election a month later. For the next two months, he spent his days working at the General Assembly. But he served his nights in jail as part of a work-release sentence on the conviction, for which he is now pardoned.
In 2019, Morrissey defeated Democratic Sen. Rosalyn Dance in a primary election and went on to win the general election.
Representing parts of the Richmond area, the state senator became one of the most prolific sponsors of criminal justice reform bills, many of them aimed at ending disparate treatment of African Americans and other minorities, groups that are among his biggest supporters.
“The people who are even more pleased are our four young children, who will understand it in the ensuing years and decades,” Morrissey said.
“It’s beyond symbolic,” Morrissey said. “It sends a strong message about what the Commonwealth did to us.”
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