RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — State Senator Joe Morrissey was investigated by the Virginia State Police for his presence and actions at a polling location in the City of Richmond during the 2019 election.
The investigation was requested by the City of Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney and handled by VSP Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Richmond Field Office.
In December of 2019, the Virginia Attorney General approved the investigation into Morrissey’s actions.
VSP says the special prosecutor working Morrissey’s case had VSP obtain three misdemeanor summonses for Code of Virginia violations. He was found to have violated section 24.2-604 which concerns prohibited activities and areas at polling places.
According to state police, “Morrissey was served at his law office Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, without incident.”
The criminal complaint filed against Morrissey states that a voter at the Powhatan Community Center on Northhampton Street saw him handing out donuts to election staff and voters while also inviting them to his election night party. The voter also says he took 15 minutes to take photos with the workers which kept her and others from voting.
On Friday Morrissey sent out a press release addressing the investigation into his actions on Election Day 2019 naming the whole situation, “Donutgate.” He says that on Nov. 5, 2019 he visited a voting precinct in Churchill to deliver donuts to poll workers. Morrissey explains that while he was there some of the poll workers asked to take a picture with him and he agreed.
The criminal complaint states that in addition to the donuts and photos, Morrissey approached voting booths to thank people for voting for him. They also accuse Morrissey of loitering within 40 feet of the entrance and greeting voters to let them know that he was running for state senate.
The senator does not believe he was in violation of the Virginia Code section 24.2-604. State law says that a candidate can enter a polling place on Election day to vote or to visit as long as the visit does not exceed 10 minutes per polling place. During those 10 minutes the candidate must not loiter, attempt influence voters, hinder a voter from entering or leaving a polling place.
Morrissey says up until when he was served the summonses on Monday he had not been contacted about the alleged violations at all.
Morrissey stated in a press release, “I’m shocked but not surprised at Attorney General Mark Herring’s behavior. What with people dying from COVID-19, losing their jobs, going homeless, and worrying about feeding their children, Attorney General Mark Herring instead makes the decision to allocate the resources of his office to investigate the donut delivery man!”
Herring’s media representative Charlotte Gomer tells 8News that although although Herring’s office authorized the investigation—which is handled by a special prosecutor—the AG didn’t make any charging decisions, the special prosecutor did. Gomer says Morrissey’s statement is “pretty much false.”