RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond mayoral candidate Joe Morrissey denied allegations he pressured a potential client for sex earlier this year during a Friday evening press conference in his Northside home.
Kanika Shani Morris, 35, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch Morrissey made sexual advances and sent her lewd text messages when she met him for legal counsel in February.
The RTD reports that when Morris refused Morrissey's overtures he "handed over her case to another lawyer in his office, who pushed her into taking a plea deal." A judge has allowed her to withdraw the plea deal amid the allegations.
Henrico Commonwealth Attorney Shannon Taylor confirms her office is now looking into Morris' allegation that her plea was done under duress.
Morris says Morrissey exposed himself and tried to get her to send nude pictures to him. She provided the newspaper with explicit text messages to corroborate her account. At the time, Morrissey was recently engaged to his now-wife, Myrna, who was pregnant with their second child.
While Morrissey, who is the frontrunner in the Richmond mayoral race, said he had a brief relationship with Morris years ago and admitted to exchanging flirtatious text messages with her in February, he called the allegations "absolutely false." Morrissey said he was never alone with Morris and said another attorney, Catherine Mullins, was present during the February 1 meeting.
"Ms. Mullins stayed in the office with Ms. Morris and me the entire time. At no time was there any inappropriate behavior, inappropriate touching, etc." wrote Morrissey in a statement. "It is my recollection that sometime later in February 2016, there were some flirtatious texts back and forth between Ms. Morris and myself. Notwithstanding the flirtatious text messages, at no time were we ever alone or otherwise intimate."
"I remember meeting with Kanika Morris on 2-1-16. I met with her alone in my office and then the two of us met with Joe in his office. To my recollection, I was with her the entire time and she was never alone in Joe's office," wrote Mullins in an email provided to the media by Morrissey.
Morrissey says he never had contact with her in her other visits to the office and doesn't recall having contact with Morris since June.
Paul Galanides later took over the case, according to Morrissey, which ended with her pleading guilty and receiving a 90-day jail sentence. Morrissey and Galanides said Morris was aware of the particulars of the plea agreement and, while they were hoping the 90-day sentence would be suspended, say she knew she could face jail time.
But Morris and her new attorney, Nicholas Braswell, say she was confused and pressured into taking the plea deal. Morris told the Times-Dispatch when she came to him in February at his Highland Springs office he exposed himself to her and asked her to touch him. She also said he asked her for sexy pictures once she refused and again days later.
She also told the newspaper Morrissey had exposed himself to her in 2008 at his office at the General Assembly where he was then a state delegate and again at an upstairs room in his private office.
Morrissey said the allegations are baseless.
"We cannot continue to allow this individual to exploit black people and to continue to think the he is above the law," His wife's estranged father Coleman Pride said.
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