A former Oklahoma Republican Senator pleaded guilty to a child sex trafficking charge for offering to pay a 17-year-old boy for a sexual encounter last March.
In exchange for Ralph Shortey’s guilty plea, U.S. prosecutors have agreed to drop three child pornography counts against him. Shortey also hopes his plea deal will help him avoid a life sentence in prison, the maximum time for his offense, reported The Oklahoman.
Shortey, 35, will be required to serve at least a 10-year prison term, regardless of U.S. District Judge Timothy DeGiusti’s sentencing decision.
"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.
Shortey was first elected to the Senate in 2010; however, he resigned March 22 when he was investigated by the police and FBI for a March 9 encounter at a Super 8 with a teenage boy.
According to the Oklahoman, the unidentified teenager's girlfriend had followed them to the hotel after seeing Shortey pick him up. When she saw them enter the hotel room, she alerted the teenager's father who called police.
Shortey and the victim met a year before on a Craigslist ad and had conversed on the message app Kik about the sexual meeting, said police.
"I need money for spring break," the teen reportedly wrote to Shortey.
Shortey then replied, "I don't really have any legitimate things I need help with right now. Would you be interested in 'sexual' stuff?"
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.
In the investigation of Shortey, authorities discovered 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. However, the plea agreement rules that federal prosecutors to ask the judge at sentencing to dismiss the child pornography counts.
(Photo: Cleveland County Detention Center)