State Sen. Ralph Shortey is facing up to 25 years behind bars if he’s convicted of all three charges he faces tied to child prostitution.
On its face, the case against Shortey seems like a slam dunk. Last week, police found him in a hotel with a 17-year-old boy. And they found texts that they believe are between the senator and the teen indicating they planned to trade cash for sex. But the case might not be that cut and dry.
Court papers show Moore Police found Shortey and the teen in a room in a Super 8 Motel. They also found text messages, presumably between the two, showing plans to pay for sex. The two used the anonymous texting app Kik, according to police, but officers only seized the teen's device and not Shortey’s.
"The phone was there,” said defense attorney David Slane, who is not representing Shortey. “They clearly knew there was communication between this underage individual and him. I don't understand why the phone wasn't seized and the warrant obtained later."
Slane says without Shortey’s cell phone, it could be hard to prove he wrote the texts.
“I think that obviously the direct link of him to these messages may be missing. We don't see his cell phone. We don't see warrants for his cell phone. [It] may be a fatal error."
Another fatal error, Slane says, prosecutors are not charging the teen.
"This appears to be a young man who may not be cooperative. He's going to be 18 soon, he may not stick around. They may have a hard time keeping him around," Slane said. "It might have been wise to have that over his head to keep him around, number one, and number two to force him to come forward and tell the truth."
Assistant DA Susan Caswell says the teen was not charged because he is the victim in this case. As for why Shortey’s phone was not seized, Caswell said the case is still ongoing.
But Slane points out, “At this point, I’m not sure anybody can say these messages came straight from this senator.”
Shortey has not resigned his position as a senator, and Senate leadership will not comment on whether there are plans to remove him from his seat.
Around 5 p.m. Friday, News 9 learned the FBI is "closely monitoring" the investigation surrounding Shortey.