Former state Sen. Kent Sorenson pleads guilty to disorderly conduct

Troubled former Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty on Tuesday to disorderly conduct, sidestepping a scheduled domestic abuse trial.

Sorenson, a conservative Republican who resigned amid a public corruption investigation, was arrested in July after reportedly becoming aggressive with law enforcement officers who arrived at his rural Warren County home to intervene in an argument between Sorenson and his wife. He was scheduled to go to trial this month on a domestic abuse charge and two counts of interference with official acts.

However, a plea agreement reached with prosecutors allows Sorenson to plead guilty to a simple misdemeanor and face a fine, said defense attorney Thomas H. Miller. A judge has yet to officially sign off on the agreement.

“He’s happy to have the case resolved,” Miller said of Sorenson.

Sorenson, 43, did not respond to a reporter’s phone message on Tuesday night.

Miller reiterated the Sorenson family’s public stance that the dispute was blown out of proportion by law enforcement in a phone interview on Tuesday. After her husband’s arrest, Shawnee Sorenson released a statement claiming she’d clawed at him during an alcohol-fueled episode spurred by the couple’s financial and legal troubles.

Sorenson, who resigned from the Iowa Senate in October 2013, pleaded guilty in 2014 to two federal charges stemming from his decision to switch his support before the 2012 Iowa Republican presidential caucus from the campaign of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann to libertarian-leaning Congressman Ron Paul.

Sorenson has testified in court that operatives with Paul’s campaign paid him $73,000 for his endorsement, secretly funneling the money through a video production company to keep the cash from becoming public. He faces up to 25 years in prison for his guilty plea to the charges, including obstruction of justice, though his sentencing hearing has been held up while federal prosecutors continue to pursue charges against three Paul operatives.

F. Montgomery Brown, the defense attorney representing Sorenson on the federal charges, said it’s difficult to know exactly how the misdemeanor conviction could affect his eventual sentencing in the corruption case. Under federal sentencing guidelines, having a criminal history can increase the recommended amount of time a defendant should spend behind bars — but there’s no guarantee it will be an issue in Sorenson’s case Brown said.

Sorenson made an Alford plea to the disorderly conduct charge, meaning that he maintains his innocence but admits that he could be found guilty under the facts of the incident.

Officers met with Shawnee Sorenson after 11:30 p.m. on July 17, 2015, and she reported that they had been arguing with each other over family matters. Sorenson said the argument did not get physical, but officers opted to speak with Kent Sorenson after seeing swelling and bruising on one of his wife’s eyes.

Inside his home, Sorenson reportedly refused to remove his hands from his pockets when asked by officers. He told the officers that he had defended himself from his wife’s attacks earlier that night, taking off his shirt to show marks that appeared scabbed-over, officers noted.

On his way to the Warren County Jail, Sorenson banged his head against the cage in one officer’s vehicle. In a statement after his arrest, Shawnee Sorenson defended her husband.

“I’m tired of the media portraying Kent in a negative light,” she said. “He has done his best to be a good father, husband and provider for our family despite all the pressures he is facing. We have been married for 26 years, and he is my best friend.”