RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The president of the Petersburg chapter of the NAACP says state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) threatened him during a meeting about the effort to bring a casino resort to the city.
Sen. Morrissey and Del. Kim Taylor (R-Dinwiddie) met with Lafayette Jefferson, president of the Petersburg NAACP, inside Taylor’s office on Monday to discuss their bills to make the city eligible for a casino referendum, Morrissey and Jefferson told 8News.
Jefferson said in an interview that he shared his opposition to the proposal with the lawmakers during the meeting and then Morrissey confronted him over a 2019 Facebook post he wrote. In the post, Jefferson compares Morrissey’s marriage to the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman with whom Jefferson fathered at least six children.
“Thomas Jefferson, for all the great things he did and accomplished, he accomplished those things while concurrently and continually raping a 14 year old enslaved African girl. Joe, educated at Jefferson’s home follows closely in Jefferson’s footsteps,” Jefferson wrote.
In 2014, Morrissey was convicted for contributing to the delinquency of a minor due to a sexual relationship with his 17-year-old assistant, Myrna Pride, who he later married. Morrissey, who now has four children with Myrna, was pardoned in January by former Gov. Ralph Northam before he left office.
Morrissey asked Jefferson if he wrote the posts, which he had printed out, about a half an hour into the meeting, according to a signed affidavit provided by the state senator. Jefferson said Morrissey made the threat when he told him he authored the post.
“He said ‘if you talk about my family again, I will cut your f—ing heart out your chest,'” Jefferson told 8News, saying he didn’t feel his post was threatening and that he believes Morrissey was trying to “throw him off” during the meeting.
When addressing the incident, Morrissey didn’t deny confronting Jefferson with the post and telling him he would “rip” his heart out.
“Mr. Jefferson put out a Facebook post where he made reference to my wife being repeatedly raped. I handed the post to him and said ‘did you say this’ and he went silent,” Morrissey told 8News. “I asked him again ‘did you say this’ and he stood up and said ‘yeah, I did.'”
“And I said to him and I meant it, if you ever threaten my wife or my children I’ll rip your heart out. And I’ll double down on that,” he continued.
Capitol Police confirmed that officers were called to the Pocahontas Building on Monday evening after a report of a disturbance in a fourth-floor office, the floor where Taylor’s office is located. Authorities did not specify who was involved or in the meeting.
“Arriving officers determined that an argument had occurred during a meeting that involved a senator, a delegate and a citizen,” Col. Anthony S. Pike, the Capitol Police chief, said in a statement. “The citizen alleged that the senator made a statement that the citizen interpreted as a physical threat.”
Col. Pike said an investigation is underway and Capitol Police are gathering information. Under the Virginia Constitution, state lawmakers can’t be prosecuted during a legislative session “in all cases except treason, felony, or breach of the peace.”
Jefferson dismissed the threat from Morrissey as “tough talk,” saying he’s concerned about the impact a casino could have on Petersburg.
Chioma Adaku-Griffin, a member of the Petersburg NAACP who was also in the meeting, signed the affidavit from Morrissey’s office giving her account of the meeting. She wrote that Morrissey said “if you ever harm my wife or children, I’ll rip your heart out of your chest.”
“At no time did Senator Morrissey or Mr. Jefferson touch one another,” Adaku-Griffin added, writing that she felt Jefferson’s Facebook post was “extremely rude and offensive” and calling on him to step down as president of the chapter.