Stephanie Morales

Stephanie Morales


* Was elected Commonwealth’s Attorney of Portsmouth, Virginia in 2015
* Believes that racism pervades American society & its criminal-justice system
* Aims to reduce prosecutions of nonviolent crimes
* Seeks to end mandatory minimum sentences
* Supporter of Black Lives Matter
* Supports the “defund-the-police” movement


A native of Portsmouth, Virginia, Stephanie Morales graduated from Norfolk State University in 2004 with a B.A. in political science. She also earned a J.D. from the College of William and Mary’s Marshall Wythe Law School in 2009.

Elected As Commonwealth’s Attorney of Portsmouth, Virginia in 2015

After a stint as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney (C.A.) in Portsmouth, Morales, a Democrat, was elected in February 2015 to serve as the city’s head C.A. when she defeated T.J. Wright in a special election by a margin of 17,594 votes to 10,290. According to Voting While Black — a project of the far-left Color of Change PAC — Morales ran successfully on leftwing campaign initiatives such as efforts to decrease incarceration totals, end the cash bail system, and “restore voting rights” for convicted felons who have served time in prison. Her campaign received the noteworthy endorsement of RealJustice PAC, an organization devoted to electing “civil rights-minded prosecutors who use the powers of their office to reduce mass incarceration, police violence, and injustice.” RealJustice co-founder Michael Kieschnick in particular noted Morales’ commitment to “holding police accountable.”

Prosecuting a White Policeman Who Shot a Black Teen

Morales’ first highly publicized case as Portsmouth C.A. involved her decision to prosecute Stephen Rankin, a white police officer, for the murder of a black 18-year-old named William Chapman. In April 2015, Rankin and Chapman engaged in a parking-lot altercation after Chapman had stolen several items from a Wal-mart store. After knocking a Taser from Rankin’s hand and then charging at the officer, Chapman was fatally shot. Rankin was ultimately convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in 2016. And Morales, for her involvement in successfully prosecuting a white police officer against an unarmed black teen, was able to advance her credentials within the ranks of “progressive” prosecutors.

Launching a Program to Help Prison Inmates Re-Enter Society

In 2015, Morales launched the “Ctrl+Alt+Del Program” to help ensure that inmates released from prison “can successfully re-enter our communities after incarceration and become productive responsible citizens.” Specifically, the program organizes frequent seminars that provide inmates with “real reentry resources,” “job preparedness” training, and help in seeking “rights restoration.”

Re-Election Platform

When she ran for re-election as Portsmouth C.A. in 2017, Morales pledged that, if she were to emerge victorious, she would:

  • “Free up prosecutorial resources to combat the most harmful crimes by materially reducing prosecution of nonviolent minor behavioral offenses.”
  • “Find ways to lower the overall rate of incarceration in favor of other means of achieving justice and safety.”
  • “Create mechanisms for a second look at charging decisions, plea bargains and convictions, because the consequences of rare mistakes are life-altering.”
  • “Advocate for appropriate reforms of cash bail to ensure that non-violent offenders are not being detained pre-trial based solely on inability to pay, consistent with protection of the community and victims at all times, and for reform of civil forfeiture of assets prior to conviction in fairness to all parties.”
  • “Support raising the Virginia threshold for non-violent larceny related felony offenses which is the lowest in the nation. Our state’s threshold of two hundred dollars leads to excessive felony charges, especially for juveniles and the mentally ill.”

Re-Elected as C.A. in 2017, with Help from George Soros

Morales won re-election as Portsmouth C.A. in November 2017. Though prominent local Democrats dropped their support for her when, according to The Intercept, they “accused [her] of using her office to help Portsmouth Sheriff Bill Watson investigate his Democratic opponent, Michael Moore,” Morales still received the backing of leftist organizations like RealJustice, which contributed $70,000 to her re-election efforts. “We followed her because she’s only one of a handful of prosecutors across the country willing to indict a white police officer for killing a black person, and more important than that, she got a conviction,” said RealJustice co-founder Michael Kieschnick.

Morales’ 2017 campaign also benefited from $136,000 in donations from the Justice and Public Safety PAC, which included more than $82,000 worth of in-kind contributions like polling services, media advertisements, and direct-mail distribution during the final two weeks prior to Election Day. Founded by the leftwing billionaire George Soros, this PAC is devoted to electing radical prosecutors throughout the United States — all in an effort to dramatically transform the nation’s criminal-justice system with policies such as ending cash bail and significantly reducing the prison population. According to The Daily Caller, Morales’ connection to the Soros-backed group “never became public during the campaign, possibly because Morales filed her campaign finance reports on paper, rather than online, making it more difficult for reporters to scrutinize the filings.”

Morales & Her Family Post a Vulgar & Sexualized Homemade Video Online

In September 2018, Morales posted to her Facebook page a homemade rap-music video featuring herself, her husband, her teenage son, and her two young daughters repeatedly uttering a variety of vulgar and sexualized lyrics such as “booty poppin’”; “booty bouncin’”; “booty crack”; “motherfuckin’”; and “my stride right, my ass tight.” Explaining that the video merely reflected the fact that she and her family were “normal people” who “have a sense of humor,” Morales downplayed the criticism that some observers directed toward it. “To suggest that women are disrespecting themselves by having a positive body image as I do in that video,” she said, “where I discuss my fitness goals [and] also talk about my intellect on a [music] track produced by my son, needs to do a little bit of soul searching.”

Indicting a White Officer for Shooting an armed Black Burglar

In April 2019, then-Portsmouth Vice Mayor Elizabeth Psimas accused Morales of “playing terrible politics” by indicting white police officer Jeremy Durocher on charges of malicious wounding and use of a firearm in connection with a 2017 incident where he had detained an armed black burglar named Deontrace Ward. The 2019 indictment came a year after Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman had awarded Durocher a Medal of Valor in June 2018 for taking “necessary steps to stop the threat…at great personal risk” during his arrest of Ward. In response to Psimas’ criticism, Morales stated:

“Our community doesn’t benefit from elected officials disparaging one another so I will refrain from addressing anyone in particular. However, I will take this opportunity to remind anyone who’s listening that the decision of our grand juries are made by Portsmouth citizens and they should never be trivialized or taken lightly. Politics play no role in grand jury’s duties and deliberations, and indictments are a reflection of the will of the people and our citizens who participate in the administration of justice should be respected at all times especially by those who have elected to serve them.”

Seeking Multiple Criminal-Justice Reforms after the Death of George Floyd

In 2020, Morales was a founding member of Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice (VPPJ), a professional association of local prosecutors who support leftwing criminal-justice policies. Shortly after the death of George Floyd in 2020, Morales was one of 11 radical prosecutors who signed their names to a VPPJ letter which called for the following police and criminal-justice reforms:

  • “All measures related to police officer accountability for use-of-force misconduct and other behavior-related complaints, to include the requirement to allow prosecutors unrestricted access to all police reports, information, and disciplinary records of officers involved in a matter before the court”;
  • “A requirement that all warrants be served during the daytime and include a knock-and-announce provision with additional showing to a judge, not a magistrate, for (i) nighttime service and (ii) no-knock service”;
  • “The elimination of the mandatory six-month operator’s license suspension on all drug convictions because the suspension serves no public safety interest and is an inappropriate punishment unrelated to the criminal behavior”;
  • “The ability to expunge convictions from one’s record to enable one to have a meaningful ‘second chance’”;
  • “The removal of mandatory minimum sentences from the law, allowing judges to take into account the needs and facts of each person’s case before their court”;
  • “The expansion of deferred disposition in all cases where the attorney for the accused and Commonwealth agree”; and
  • “The clarification of the discretionary powers of the prosecutor.”

In a July 2020 tweet promoting the aforementioned letter, Morales emphasized that she was “proud to be doing this work with my counterparts who acknowledge the harm our profession has done and now seek to correct it.” The other prosecutors who signed the letter were: Amy Ashworth, Anton Bell, Buta Biberaj, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Steve Descano, James Hingeley, Joseph D. Platania, Bryan Porter, Shannon L. Taylor, and Gregory D. Underwood.

Refusing to Prosecute NAACP Activists Who Vandalized a Confederate Monument

Later that year, Morales declined to prosecute a case in which 10 people – most of whom were local public defenders and NAACP activists — were charged with vandalizing a Confederate monument in downtown Portsmouth. The case was eventually dismissed by a judge, and the ten defendants were paid a combined total of $150,000 by the City of Portsmouth.

Morales’ Views on Race & the Justice System

In October 2020, Morales was interviewed by the Brennan Center For Justice to talk about “systemic racism” and the need to “shrin[k] the criminal justice system.” Among the noteworthy remarks she made during the interview were the following:

  • “Before I am a prosecutor, I am a Black woman. I am a mother of four Black children and a wife to a Black husband. As an individual, I have my own perspective on the harms that the criminal justice system perpetuates on communities — Black communities and communities of color. I cannot have any discussion on the issues plaguing our criminal-legal systems without first acknowledging that we are operating in a system of systemic racism — period.”
  • “My profession has caused harm. When we talk about systemic racism, we cannot remove the system actors from that equation. We have to acknowledge that, for years, prosecutors have perpetuated harms on Black communities and communities of color, poor and impoverished people, and LGBTQ+ communities. Police, prosecutors, judges, and other actors in the criminal legal system are part of perpetuating racism. We cannot talk about the overarching effects of the system without talking about the people who are a part of the system.”
  • “I try to take the restorative justice approach on a daily basis. I am constantly reminding myself and my peers that we are making decisions that impact people’s lives. We are handling matters similar to those in which George Floyd lost his life. Every single day, there is a footprint of the criminal legal system on people’s lives in ways that many of us cannot imagine. Our communities feel surveilled and oppressed at schools and in our neighborhoods — in neighborhoods where, quite frankly, individuals have no access to food, housing, and are at a total disadvantage.”
  • “If there is any elected official, public official, or anybody else who is in a public service position who at this point cannot feel — truly feel — and then profess that Black Lives Matter, I feel you are unfit to serve.”
  • “We have to transform [the criminal-justice system]. We have to dismantle and rebuild in a way that is going to enable us to serve our communities the way we are supposed to serve them. We have a responsibility now, as the ones who have a seat of power, to push for that transformative, non-incremental change at every turn…. The system is operating as it was designed to operate. So, we may not have a perfect solution, but we know that what is happening now is harmful. The current system is very disruptive in the lives of people on a daily basis. I am an advocate for defunding.”
  • “Personally, I am an advocate of the ‘defund [the police]’ movement, but we have to acknowledge what this is actually about. As a society, we must realize that we do not have unlimited resources. Too many of these resources are being taken up by mass incarceration and punitive policing…. The sentiment of wanting to defund the police is really about reinvesting in community, and in some cases, investing in poor Black and brown communities for the first time.”
  • “If the community wants to defund the police, that means that the entire criminal legal system will hopefully shrink. That means that my office will lose resources, and I am perfectly fine with that. If you are truly a person with a public servant’s heart, and you want to get this right, we should want to shrink this system. We should not want the footprint of this system on people’s lives.”

Re-Elected As C.A. in 2021, with Endorsement by People For the American Way

In November 2021, Morales was re-elected as Portsmouth C.A. with nearly 94% of the vote. One of her key endorsers was People For the American Way (PFAW), whose president, Ben Jealous, identified Morales as a “proven champion for justice and a longtime friend of People For.” Morales, for her part, was honored by PFAW’s endorsement. “I am excited to receive the endorsement from People For the American Way,” she said in a statement. “Having an endorsement from an organization that is firmly grounded in its mission to build a democracy that implements the ideals of opportunity and justice for all encourages me to keep fighting for all people.”

Spate of Shootings in Portsmouth

Following a spate of 12 shootings in 7 days in Portsmouth in June 2022, local police chief Renado Prince suggested that criminals in that city were being let out of jail too easily. Morales responded: “I don’t engage in finger-pointing. I know that our community isn’t engaged in finger-pointing because that doesn’t make us any safer.”

Morales Is a Leader of “Our Black Party”

As of November 2022, Morales was listed as a leader of Our Black Party (OBP) — an organization that: (a) claims to be “committed to creating an agenda and elevating policies and people focused on black liberation”; (b) “demands the redistribution of power and wealth in this country to advance racial and social equity explicitly for Black people”; and (c) “declares our independence from political structures that do not serve our needs, and we demand that our voices be heard.” OBP’s stated agenda includes, among others, the following key elements:

  • Defunding the Police: “We demand that all levels of government divest from law enforcement and reinvest in comprehensive community development.”
  • Guaranteed Income for All: “Too many people, especially Black people, are excluded from participation in the economy. We know that those who are employed face low wages, unsafe working conditions, and risks of retaliation for advocating for workers’ rights. We also know that poverty has continued to exist in this country despite the highs of the economy–the economy alone is not the answer. We demand a guaranteed income for all.”
  • Decriminalize Poverty: “Laws are unfairly applied to Black people, particularly poor Black people. We are calling on local governments to stop making crimes of the very quality of life issues they should be working to fix. We demand that governments at every level remove imprisonment and exorbitant fines for quality of life offenses and end cash bail in the US.”
  • Address Racism in Healthcare: “From communities without adequate access to healthy food and preventive care, to high rates of maternal mortality for Black women, to disproportionate rates of deaths due to COVID-19, the healthcare system in America has failed Black people. We demand healthcare for all, equitable access to comprehensive community-based care and reproductive health services, and ongoing action-oriented research on health disparities.”
  • Grow Black Businesses: “Governments, at all levels, spend billions of dollars each year through contracts with small businesses and Black businesses do not have an equitable share of this spending. We demand equity for Black businesses in every jurisdiction where they operate.”
  • Legalize Marijuana: “Marijuana is now a growing and lucrative industry for many. Historically, Black peoples have been the victim of unjust laws and further barred from participation in this market. We demand that all states legalize marijuana, immediately release all prisoners held for marijuana-related offenses, and expunge the criminal records of those with past convictions and violations.”
  • High-Quality and Affordable Education: “Whether due to their class, race, or zip code, Black students are deprived of high-quality educations. We demand investment in strengthening curriculum, instruction, learning environments, and access for Black students at every level.”
  • The One Thousand: “We have seen that a system run by people who are not committed to the Black agenda will pass and support laws that undermine Black existence. We will elect at least 1,000 Black people to positions of power at every level of government that support the Black agenda.”
  • Statewide Equity Officers: “State laws and programs are developed without considering the impacts on Black people. We demand that Governors of all 50 states appoint a cabinet-level advisor to ensure that all state programs are developed with an equity and justice lens.”
  • Build Intergenerational Wealth: “A history of redlining, racism in appraisals, predatory lending practices, and unchecked gentrification have stripped Black families of years of wealth-building through homeownership. We demand the removal of all barriers to homeownership and fairness in lending for Black people.”

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