PLATTSBURGH — Former Assemblyman Chris Ortloff has admitted he tried to solicit sex from minors. The 61-year-old pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of online enticement of minors, a charge that could land him in prison for 10 years to life.
In a surprise move, he was released until his sentencing next April.
Ortloff had been behind bars since mid-October when a police investigation revealed the former high-profile politician was trying to arrange sex with two young girls.
At the time, Ortloff believed he had been arranging the sex meeting with the girls’ mother, but he was really chatting online with an undercover police officer.
To culminate the lengthy investigation, police set up a sting operation at an Albany-area hotel, where they caught Ortloff with vibrators, condoms and lubricant he’d been planning to use during his encounter with the young girls.
According to the Albany Times Union, the plea hearing was abruptly added to the court’s calendar late Tuesday and without public notice by federal prosecutors.
Normally, plea hearings are scheduled at least several days in advance and made part of the court’s public calendar.
During the plea proceeding, which took place via video conference with Ortloff in Albany and U.S. District Senior Judge Thomas McAvoy in Binghamton, the judge ordered him released with conditions on a personal recognizance bond of $100,000 pending his sentencing.
Ortloff is due back in court for sentencing at 9:30 a.m. April 23, when he faces a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison.
He could also face a $250,000 fine.
By signing the plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Ortloff avoided indictment and took responsibility for his crimes.
The government, in turn, agreed to recommend a reduced sentence, the Times Union said.
Further conditions of his release include home confinement and a prohibition from having or using a computer, the report said. He must also surrender his passport.
Ortloff, a Republican, served in the Assembly in the 114th District from 1986 until June 2006, when he left to take a position on the New York State Board of Parole.
He has since resigned from his parole position, for which he was paid a salary of $101,600 per year.
Ortloff had served as Clinton County Republican Party chairman for several years in the 1990s.
Before entering politics, Ortloff was anchorman for WPTZ News Channel Five.
He also served as director of medals ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in his native Lake Placid in 1980.
Janet Duprey, who forced Ortloff to leave the Assembly when she launched her campaign to run against him in a primary in early 2006, said his conduct is reprehensible.
“I’m glad that a plea was reached and his family is spared having to go through a public trial because I am sure it would be very difficult for them,” Duprey said Wednesday.
Duprey, the former Clinton County treasurer, won the Assembly seat in November 2006 by defeating Democrat Andrew Brockway.
Duprey said Ortloff’s actions affected many.
“I am pleased for the North Country that there won’t be many more public reports about his betrayal of the North Country. A lot of people supported him and believed in him for years, and he let everybody down.”
As an assemblyman, Ortloff championed tough laws against sex offenders on several occasions.
“Our government,” he told the Press-Republican in January of 2006, “must do more to keep dangerous, sexually violent predators away from women and children.”
His wife, Ruth Mary Ortloff, did not return a call seeking comment.
The case against Ortloff was investigated by the New York State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and Computer Crimes Unit, with assistance from the New York State Police Special Investigations Unit; New York State Police investigators working in Ray Brook, Plattsburgh and Loudonville; and the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
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