RICHMOND, Va. -- Joe Morrissey and his lawyer called for the Richmond Times-Dispatch to retract and apologize for a story published Friday.
In the report, a female client claimed Morrissey exposed himself to her at his law firm, pressured her for sex, sent her explicit text message, and, then, when she refused to play along gave her case to another lawyer in his office who pushed her into pleading guilty because she hadn’t paid Morrissey enough.
"The essence of this lady's claim is a lie," Morrissey's attorney, Arnold Henderson, told reporters during the 1:30 p.m. news conference.
Henderson refuted 10 specifics from the article he said proves Kanika Morris' claims are "absolute" lies.
"This letter from Paul Galanides proves that her claim of being forced to plead guilty without her knowledge is a lie," Henderson said.
Morrissey, who was silent for much of the presser, claimed Morris' new lawyer drove her to the newspaper's offices immediately after she was released from jail.
"Everything that that woman said about meeting me in my office alone was a lie," Morrissey said.
In fact, Morrissey said Catherine Mullins, the primary attorney on the Morris case, was aghast by the allegations.
In an email Friday, Mullins said she did not remember Morris meeting with Morrissey privately.
“I met with her alone in my office and then the two of us met with Joe in his office," Mullins wrote in an email. "To my recollection, I was with her the entire time and she was never alone in Joe’s office. She told me she knew Joe previously from his work with his group home. Because Joe knew her, he offered her a greatly reduced rate for her case."
Morrissey maintained he had no contact with Morris for four months and that Galanides "handled the entire case."
Henderson faulted the newspaper for not reaching out to Morrissey sooner before going to press.
"I am here to formally offer the Richmond Times-Dispatch the opportunity... to retract the statement," Henderson said. "I am here to formally offer them the opportunity to apologize."
Henderson also said Morrissey will continue to campaign for mayor.
Morrissey said the allegations reminded him of the "shenanigans" he faced 25 years ago when he was running for Commonwealth's Attorney in Richmond.
"Five days before the primary they reported that I was indicted for bribery," Morrissey said. "I lost that primary."
When the case went to trial, Morrissey said all charges were dismissed.
"Six jurors said this was the most shameful set of charges they had ever seen." he said.
Morrissey: I don't recall panties text
This was the second news conference in less than 24 hours for the candidate. A chaotic scene unfolded outside his home Friday and he opted to move things inside when his wife’s father showed up and yelled “liar” every time he attempted to talk.
Once inside, he refuted the allegations made by a woman named Kanika Morris in a Richmond Times-Dispatch article published Friday.
“What I’m accused of is a crime that I forced this person into a plea agreement…that is absolutely false,” Morrissey said
Standing by Morrissey’s side was his wife, Myrna, who looked visibly uncomfortable and kept rubbing her stomach.
Especially, when WTVR CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit asked him about one particularly explicit text Morris claims he sent.
“What about the alleged follow up text involving panties,” Hipolit asked.
“While I don’t deny, while I don’t recall the exact texts, I don’t deny them at all, but I do deny is ever ever having any contact with her outside of my office after that first day,” Morrissey said.
Morrissey served jail time for charges related to an inappropriate relationship with Myrna when she was just 17.
Included in Morrissey’s plea deal, several explicit texts he allegedly wrote to her.
When Hipolit brought them up at the press conference, Myrna interrupted and said,” ok, I said that’s enough…that’s enough and we’re shutting this down now.”
Another reporter from the Times Dispatch attempted one more question, but Pride shut them down while Morrissey said “honey please, honey.”
“I nicely asked you guys…to stop the questioning, excuse me, I nicely asked you guy to please stop the videoing and the questions and to please exit my home,” Myrna said.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney in Henrico, Shannon Taylor, is investigating the allegations.
A Henrico judge did allow Morris to withdraw her original plea.