By BRENDAN J. LYONS, Senior writer
First published in print: Thursday, December 25, 2008
ALBANY -- Former state Assemblyman George C. ''Chris'' Ortloff pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday morning to a felony charge in connection with his attempt to have sex with what he believed were two sisters, ages 11 and 12.
Ortloff, a former member of the state Parole Board, pleaded guilty to a single count of online enticement of minors. The conviction carries a minimum 10-year prison sentence and a maximum of life in prison.
By signing the plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Ortloff avoided indictment and accepted responsibility for his crimes. The government, in turn, agreed to recommend a reduced sentence. Ortloff's 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 J. McAvoy in Binghamton, the judge ordered Ortloff released with conditions on a personal recognizance bond of $100,000 pending his sentencing, set for April 23 in Binghamton.
Ortloff has been held in custody since his arrest Oct. 13 at a Colonie motel where he went expecting to have sex with two minors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Spina and Ortloff's attorney, Andrew Safranko, could not be reached for comment.
The conditions of release imposed on Ortloff by the judge include home confinement and a prohibition from having or using a computer. Ortloff also must surrender his passport.
Ortloff, 61, of Plattsburgh, resigned his $101,600-a-year job with the state parole board in the wake of his arrest. He was appointed to the board in 2006 by Gov. George Pataki.
The former Republican assemblyman, also a former television reporter, was an outspoken advocate of tough penalties for sex offenders.
Documents in the case show Ortloff was accused of arranging with a ''mother'' to have sex with her young daughters. The mother actually was an undercover investigator assigned to the New York State Police's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in Albany.
''Ortloff discussed engaging in various sexual acts with said 'minors' while conversing with them online and on the telephone,''
states the plea agreement signed by Ortloff on Wednesday.
The months-long plans imploded for Ortloff on Oct. 13 when he was arrested by task force members. Ortloff had two vibrators, ''one for each minor,'' along with lubricant and condoms when he was arrested at a Wolf Road motel, authorities said.
Brendan Lyons can be reached at 454-5547 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org