Former state Senator Ralph Shortey has pleaded guilty to operating a child sex trafficking ring and is expected to be given a 10-year prison sentence next week.
Shortey agreed to plead guilty to the child sex trafficking offences in exchange for U.S. prosecutors dropping three additional child pornography counts against him.
Newsok.com reports: His jury trial had been set to begin Dec. 5 in Oklahoma City federal court. He is now scheduled to plead guilty Nov. 30 instead.
By making a deal, Shortey, 35, hopes to avoid being locked up for most of the rest of his life. Still, he will be required to serve at least a 10-year prison term, the mandatory minimum time for child sex trafficking.
The maximum time for the offense is life in prison. U.S. District Judge Timothy DeGiusti will decide the punishment at a sentencing next year.
“It is in my best interest and in the best interest of my family,” Shortey wrote on plea paperwork signed Monday. He remains married to his high school sweetheart, his defense attorney said. They have four daughters.
The defense attorney, Ed Blau, negotiated the plea agreement for Shortey after reviewing the evidence and applicable case law.
“Mr. Shortey feels this is a necessary step in putting this painful and humiliating ordeal behind him, for both himself, his family and for the state of Oklahoma,” the attorney said Friday.
Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, was first elected in 2010 and was known for his offbeat legislative proposals that at times attracted national attention. He resigned March 22.
Shortey — who once planned to be a missionary — was investigated first by Moore police and then the FBI after being found with the teenager at the Super 8 in Moore about 1 a.m. March 9.
The teenager’s girlfriend had followed them to the hotel after seeing Shortey pick him up. She then alerted the teenager’s father who called police.
Police reported Shortey and the victim had carried on a conversation about sex using the messaging app Kik before going to the hotel. Their conversation had turned graphic when the teenager wrote, “I need money for spring break,” according to police.
Shortey had replied, “I don’t really have any legitimate things I need help with right now. Would you be interested in ‘sexual’ stuff?” The teenager then wrote, “Yes,” according to police.
Officers reported finding an open box of condoms in Shortey’s backpack and a bottle of lotion in the teenager’s backpack.
The victim “confirmed that he and Shortey intended to have sexual contact and that they had agreed Shortey would pay him for the contact,” an FBI agent reported in a court affidavit. Both beds were described as unmade.
The two had met a year before through a Craigslist ad.
The investigation of Shortey uncovered evidence he had led a secret life. The FBI reported he used fake names to post Craigslist ads seeking sex with young males and on an email account to send and receive pornography.
“Shortey used those pseudonyms almost exclusively for illicit and illegal sexual interests or encounters, several of which included communications and exchanges of pornography with underage males, and/or the sharing of child pornography,” the FBI agent wrote in the court affidavit.
A federal grand jury indicted Shortey in September.
He was accused in the child sex trafficking count of knowingly recruiting the underage male to engage in a commercial sex act.
He was accused in one of the child pornography counts of persuading that teenager to send him an inappropriate photo in 2016. He was accused in the other child pornography counts of emailing sexually explicit videos to two individuals in October 2013.
The plea agreement calls for federal prosecutors to ask the judge at sentencing to dismiss the child pornography counts. Also, according to the deal, Shortey “will not be further prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma for any crimes related to his transportation, possession or production of child pornography or child sex trafficking during the period from October 2013 through March 9, 2017.”
Shortey had also faced a child prostitution charge in Cleveland County District Court. That felony case was dismissed after he was indicted in federal court.