Former State Sen. Ralph Shortey
Former Oklahoma state senator Ralph Shortey will accept a plea deal after getting caught in a motel room with a 17-year-old boy in March this year.
Shortey, who was a senior member of Donald Trump’s campaign team in the state, will plead guilty to child sex trafficking after three other charges were dropped, KOCO News 5 reports.
Police discovered Shortey and the youth at a Super 8 motel, where he had allegedly offered the boy money in exchange for “sexual stuff.” Authorities found an open box of condoms in the minor’s backpack, and the room apparently smelled strongly of marijuana.
Shortey apparently spoke with the teen through private messaging app Kik, with the conversation becoming explicit after the youth said he needed “money for spring break,” according to police reports.
“I don’t really have any legitimate things I need help with right now,” Shortey replied. “Would you be interested in ‘sexual’ stuff?”
According to NewsOK, FBI reports indicated Shortey had a history of seeking sex with young men, including using fake names on Craigslist to post personal ads.
“Shortey used those pseudonyms almost exclusively for illicit and illegal sexual interests or encounters,” an FBI agent wrote in a court affidavit, “several of which included communications and exchanges of pornography with underage males, and/or the sharing of child pornography.”
In addition to soliciting a minor to engage in a commercial sex act, Shortey was also charged with transportation of child pornography, for allegedly sharing videos in 2013 involving a “prepubescent girl” and young boys.
His final charge was production of child pornography, part of an allegation that Shortey convinced a minor to share one or more inappropriate images with him between February 2016 and March 2017.
Shortey accepted the plea deal, calling it “in my best interest and in the best interest of my family,” according to the plea paperwork.
“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,” his defense attorney Ed Blau said, NewsOK reports.
Shortey will be sentenced at a later date, with the minimum penalty for child sex trafficking in Oklahoma constituting 10 years in prison.
The former Republican politician was first elected in 2010 on a “family values” platform, and repeatedly voted against LGBTQ rights.
AP reports that Shortey consistently voted in favor of bills that targeted LGBTQ people, including one earlier this year which allowed businesses to discriminate against gay people. Troy Stevenson, director of LGBTQ rights advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma, told AP that Shortey “was never vitriolic” about his feelings towards LGBTQ people, “but he would make the bad votes.”