Embattled State Senator Faces Claims of Abuse by Estranged Wife

Virginia State Sen. Joe Morrissey gestures during an interview in his office Monday, May. 22, 2023, in Richmond, Va. Morrissey is being challenged in a Democratic primary for a newly redrawn senatorial district by former Delegate Lashrecse Aird. (Steve Helber)

By Carolyn Fiddler

May 26, 2023

Myrna Morrissey, estranged wife of controversial state Sen. Joe Morrissey, has filed for divorce from her husband and leveled allegations of physical and emotional abuse in court documents.

State Sen. Joe Morrissey is no stranger to controversy or allegations of violence, but a new divorce court filing suggests that the embattled lawmaker and former attorney continued his longstanding pattern of verbal and physical abuses into his most recent marriage.

More than 30 years have passed since Morrissey was cited for contempt of court for punching another lawyer in the middle of a trial or found guilty of threatening a judge, more than 20 years since he “badly” injured a home repair contractor in a fight following a disagreement or tried to bribe his way out of performing community service, and more than five years since he last lost his law license (he’s been disbarred twice).

This week, Myrna Morrissey (née Pride) filed for divorce in Henrico County, and in related documents, she alleges numerous instances of physical and emotional abuse during their marriage, which began in 2016 – though his connection to Myrna dates from 2013, when she was 17.

Morrissey was a member of the House of Delegates and Myrna was working in his law office when their sexual relationship allegedly began in 2013; he was arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor and accepted a misdemeanor conviction related to their sexual relationship without admitting guilt in 2014. The House ejected him, but he ran for reelection and served in the legislature on work-release during his resulting 90-day jail sentence. (Outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam pardoned Morrissey in 2021.)

Morrissey and Myrna have three children together, the first of which she became pregnant with in 2014 at age 18.

Morrissey successfully ousted an incumbent Democratic state senator in a 2019 primary election for a Richmond-area seat; he’s running for reelection this year and faces a difficult primary of his own this time around.

Myrna claims she wanted to end their marriage in 2018 after “ongoing infidelities.” Her filing alleges Morrissey persuaded her to stay because he felt a divorce would hurt his upcoming Senate campaign.

Abuse allegations made by Myrna in court documents include that Morrissey elbowed her in the abdomen during her third pregnancy; that he grabbed her by the throat, slammed her against a wall, and choked and slapped her; that he repeatedly called her abusive names and made “unflattering remarks regarding her race;” and that he had numerous affairs during their marriage, including with a deputy sheriff, babysitters, and a woman with whom he fathered twins.

Myrna’s divorce filing comes months after public allegations of child abuse dragged their rift into the spotlight; she called her marriage to Morrissey “The Biggest Mistake of My Life” and revealed that the pair had been separated since 2019.

As a sitting member of the Virginia General Assembly and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Morrissey has an outsized influence on judicial appointments in the state, a fact that could complicate any legal proceedings he’s involved in and a concern previously raised by Myrna.

Morrissey claims that Myrna’s allegations are “absolutely false.”

Morrissey faces former Del. Lashrecse Aird in the June 20 primary for the Democratic nomination in Senate District 13, which includes parts of Richmond, Petersburg, and adjacent counties.

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.

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