Stanley to resign from Tennessee State Senate - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

From Action News 5's Andy Wise and wire reports

Stanley admits affair to Action News 5; submits resignation from Tennessee State Senate

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Paul Stanley Paul Stanley
McKensie Morrison McKensie Morrison
Joel Watts Joel Watts

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - State Sen. Paul Stanley submitted his resignation from the Tennessee General Assembly Tuesday over an affair with a 22-year-old legislative intern that was revealed by an alleged extortion plot.

Stanley confirmed his plans to Action News 5's Andy Wise late Tuesday afternoon. His last day in the state senate will be August 10th.

Stanley told Wise he decided to resign from the senate after conferring with his wife, Kristi.

"This is a family decision," he said.  "I'm going to pay the consequence for this action. I will pay it, most likely, in my marriage."

Stanley said he confessed the affair to his wife three months ago, but he would not say when it began or how long it lasted.

Court records show that Stanley, 47, told TBI agents investigating a blackmail case that he had a sexual relationship with intern McKensie Morrison. Her boyfriend, Joel Watts, is charged with trying to extort $10,000 from Stanley in April in return for sexually suggestive photos and a video of the affair.

In an exclusive television interview with Wise, Stanley insisted there never was a video, but he acknowledged the existence of photos.

"(Stanley) They were just pictures of her, and..."

"(Wise)...that you took in your (Nashville) apartment?"

"(Stanley) I'm not going to even go into how (Watts) got those.  That is something I've been told not to discuss."

The TBI has acknowledged Stanley's cooperation in a sting operation where agents say while under surveillance, Watts accepted the cash from Stanley in exchange for the pictures.  Agents say Watts was arrested on the scene and charged with extortion and theft of property.  Authorities have since dropped the theft charge.

In a Nashville television interview, Watts insisted he did not commit extortion.

"I never, ever, ever demanded and/or asked for money from this gentleman," said Watts.  "I asked him for an apology."

"I think that would be a very inaccurate statement," said Stanley.  "Money was exchanged." 

Stanley explained it was money provided by the TBI to execute the sting.

Stanley said he believes text messages between Morrison and Watts may eventually implicate Morrison in the extortion plot.

"There's a possibility that could be the case," he said.  "I have left that up to the authorities."

Morrison's phone numbers are redacted from her legislative internship application, and efforts to reach her were unsuccessful Tuesday.  A number listed for her in Dickson, TN, rings incessantly; no answer.

Her father said he didn't want to talk about the situation.

"It's a family matter, and I'm going to approach it that way," Will Morrison said. "And I have no further comment."

Two newspapers in Florida shed more light on Morrison's past.

She was student body president and graduated from Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange, FL., in 2005. Later that summer she married Randy Mueller, a basketball player at the school, The Orlando Sentinel and the Daytona Beach News Journal reported.

Less than a month after their marriage, Mueller was charged with a hammer attack on an elderly acquaintance.

Mueller and Morrison told police that 75-year-old Stuart Ringdahl drove the couple home after dinner, and while parked in their driveway offered Morrison $50 for sex, and then tried to put his hand up her shorts when she refused.

According to the South Daytona Police report obtained by the papers, Mueller hit Ringdahl on the head with a hammer from the back of the car, fracturing the man's skull.

Ringdahl denied grabbing Morrison and said Mueller attacked him for no reason. Police arrested Ringdahl, but the case against him was later dismissed.

Mueller is serving a seven-year sentence and filed for divorce from Morrison last month.

Morrison moved to Dickson and enrolled at Austin Peay State University in fall 2006. She was a straight-A student at the school through the middle of her junior year when she applied for the internship with the Tennessee General Assembly.

Stanley last week stepped down from his position as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, but had signaled he would remain in the Legislature.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and Shelby County GOP Chairman Lang Wiseman had called on Stanley to step aside.  Stanley said neither man contacted him to request his resignation.

Because Stanley's resignation comes more than a year before the next general election, a special election will be held to fill the seat representing suburban Memphis.

Click here to read Stanley's resignation letter.

Copyright 2009 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The AP contributed to this story.

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