‘It’s Donutgate:’ Senator Joe Morrisey responds to Election Day violation charges

Del. Joe Morrissey
Del. Joe Morrissey
Updated: Dec. 8, 2020 at 6:21 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) – Virginia Senator Joe Morrisey is facing criminal charges related to Election Day 2019. Sen. Morrissey is facing three misdemeanor charges for his alleged actions at a polling location in Nov. 2019.

Virginia State Police conducted the investigation at the request of the Richmond Commonwealth Attorney.

That request was approved in Dec. 2019 by the Attorney General in accordance with state law concerning Morrissey’s presence and actions at a polling location in Richmond on Nov. 5, 2019, the investigation says.

VSP says a special prosecutor assigned to the case directed state police to obtain three misdemeanor summonses: Code of Virginia 24.2-604: Polling places; prohibited activities; prohibited area.

Morrissey is accused of violating Virginia Code 24.2-604, which prohibits and limits certain activities at polling places.

“I did what scores of legislators do throughout the Commonwealth - we bring donuts or sandwiches or pizzas to the interior poll workers, thanking them for getting up at 4:30 a.m. and staying till 7:30 p.m., and that’s what I did at this precinct,” said Morrissey. “I walked in and gave them donuts, contrary to what was reported, I did not interact with any voters inside the voting precinct.”

A video was posted on social media on Nov. 5, 2019, the Twitter user writing: “So here’s video of Joe Morrissey saying forget the 40 feet rule and passing out donuts to election staff AND voters INSIDE my polling location...he thanked them for their support, invited them to his election night party and then took pictures...while I had to wait to check in.”

He is also seen in another video within the same Twitter thread, standing outside the location talking to someone.

Morrisey was served at his law office on Nov. 30, but he says he followed the law that day.

“The video shows it - the interior poll workers will say that and three points are crystal clear,” said Morrissey. “Number 1, the code allows me to visit every precinct in my district on the inside for 10 minutes or less, I followed that law. Number 2, you cannot campaign within 40 feet of the interior polling place, I followed that law. Number 3, as legislators and registrars have called me and said, there is no prohibition on giving donuts or sandwiches to poll workers, it has been done the last 100 years”

Morrisey is questioning the timing of the charges, saying the following in a statement released by his office:

In the ensuing 13 months, nobody contacted Senator Morrissey to discuss this matter with him. The first time that Senator Morrissey heard anything was this past Monday, November 30, 2020. The timing of these summonses is highly suspicious as they come after Senator Morrissey endorsed Mark Herring’s Opponent, Delegate Jay Jones, for Attorney General.

Senator Morrissey stated, “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!”

NBC12 reached out to Attorney General Mark Herring’s Office who calls Morrissey’s claims “baseless” and says other than giving the green light for the initial investigation, it had no other involvement in the case, as a special prosecutor ultimately decided to bring forth charges.

The senator is now calling the situation “donutgate,” and says the decision to investigate some of his other political colleagues would not happen.

“Most folks are aware of ‘gates,’ that is exactly what this is, and this is ‘donutgate,’” he said.

Morrissey says he is going to “let things follow-through” in court.

“I am going to go into court with my lawyers. We are going to present evidence - overwhelming evidence - that I followed the law. We are going to show it is selective prosecution,” he said.

The investigation remains ongoing.

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