A federal judge sentenced former Oklahoma senator Ralph Shortey to 15 years in prison this week after a guilty plea to child sex trafficking.
Shortey was indicted by a federal grand jury after being discovered in a hotel room with a 17-year-old boy. The teen's father had notified police that his son might be at a local hotel with the then-senator. Investigators say that the pair took some time before answering the door. Later, the teen admitted to police that they had been smoking marijuana and "fooling around." The reason it took so long to answer the door is that they had to hide the marijuana and get dressed.
The age of consent in Oklahoma is 16, which means the relationship between Shortey and the teen would not necessarily have been illegal; however, the investigation uncovered a Kik message in which Shortey offered to pay the teen cash for "sexual stuff." The offer of exchange of money for sex initially led to prostitution charges for the senator. However, under federal law, anyone under the age of 18 involved in commercial sex acts is considered to be a victim of child sex trafficking.
While Shortey attempted to spin the tryst as a relationship between consenting adults, federal law stipulates that no one under the age of 18 can consent to commercial sex or appear in sexually explicit material.
Investigators say not only was Shortey involved in a sex-for-money relationship with the teen from the hotel room, he was also in possession of sexually explicit images and videos received from other teens.
The then-senator was charged with child sex trafficking and possession of child pornography. In November, he pleaded guilty to child sex trafficking, and in return, prosecutors dropped the child pornography charges.
At sentencing, Shortey asked for a sentence of 10 years, the minimum a judge could give under federal child sex trafficking laws. Prosecutors, on the other hand, asked the judge for a sentence of 24-30 years, the number recommended by federal sentencing guidelines given the specifics of Shortey's case. In the end, U.S. District Judge Timothy DeGiusti chose a sentence that fell between the two requests when he sentenced Shortey to 15 years in prison.
Upon release, Shortey will be required to register as a sex offender and must remain on supervised release for a period of 10 years.