A former Oklahoma senator is set to be sentenced in federal court Monday for his conviction on child sex trafficking charges.
Ralph Shortey, 36, was indicted after police, at the request of the father of a 17-year-old boy, raided a Moore Super 8 motel in March 2017. They found Shortey with the boy who admitted that the two had been "naked and fooling around" before police arrived. He also said that the two had been smoking marijuana, which he went to the bathroom to hide when police knocked on the door.
Although the age of consent in Oklahoma is 16 under most circumstances, investigators uncovered text messages in which the then-senator offered to pay the boy for "sexual stuff." Under federal law, commercial sex--including prostitution, pornography, and exotic dancing--is illegal for a minor under the age of 18, and any adult involved my be convicted of child sex trafficking.
Shortey reportedly attempted to downplay the acts of which he was accused, saying he was "selectively prosecuted 'for spectacle'." Federal prosecutors, however, painted a much different picture.
Prosecutors argued that the teen faced significant trauma after the relationship with Shortey, saying he had nightmares, fear of adults, anxiety, and depression. They say Shortey was a predatory pedophile who exploited not only the teen involved in this case, but potentially thousands of other children through the downloading and possession of child pornography.
They point to numerous Craigslist accounts Shortey set up under fake names attempting to find young men to engage in sexual activity. In one, he wrote, "would love to have a boy to play with and take care of a little on the side. ... Looking for younger the better (legal) white or mixed. ... Please send pics. If you're interested in my wife joining in the future, that might be a possibility also."
Shortey's wife divorced him this year.
Investigators reportedly uncovered evidence from the internet service provider AOL showing that, on that one service alone, the former senator downloaded, possessed, or distributed more than 1,050 images of child pornography. They say that, because Shortey lost or destroyed his personal laptop and smartphone and never returned his state-issued laptop, they will never know the extent of his involvement in child pornography.
As part of a plea deal, the three child pornography indictments against Shortey have been dismissed.
U.S. District Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti can consider the child pornography in choosing the ex-senator's sentence on the child sex trafficking conviction. Shortey faces up to 10 years in federal prison.
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