NASHVILLE, Tenn. - An extortion attempt has revealed a possible relationship between a legislative intern and a Tennessee senator who has now resigned as Senate Commerce Committee chair following the revelations.
Joel Watts has been charged with trying to extort $10,000 from Senator Paul Stanley, threatening to reveal an alleged affair he had with McKensie Morrison, a 22-year-old intern.
According to an affidavit filed in April, Watts was involved in a relationship with Morrison when he discovered she was also having sex with Memphis Republican.
The court document said "Watts discovered a memory disc with explicit photographs of Morrison" that "appeared to be taken in Stanley's apartment" and began contacting Stanley in April, demanding he pay him $10,000 for the photographs.
"Watts communicated to Stanley if he did not pay the money, the photographs would be sent to other individuals, including the media," the document continued.
Stanley contacted the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for assistance and while working with the agency, agreed to meet Watts behind a Nashville restaurant and exchange the money for a disc containing the pictures.
Watts was taken into custody after the exchange was made and later admitted to demanding the money from Stanley.
In a statement released late Tuesday, Stanley acknowledged being "the victim and a witness to a crime," but said he'd been asked not to comment.
"At this time, I have been advised by authorities and the District Attorney's office not to comment. There is already misinformation being inferred regarding this matter which I look forward to clearing up at the appropriate time," the statement read.
The 47-year-old Stanley is married and has two children.
He was elected to the Senate in 2006 after serving eight years in the state House and appointed chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee in January.
He resigned from his chairmanship Wednesday.
In a letter to Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey Wednesday, Stanley wrote he will step down from his chairmanship "in light of recent events," but will remain in the Senate.
Ramsey issued a statement saying he received Stanley's letter and has accepted his resignation.
Watts is charged with extortion, a felony. He appeared in court for a preliminary hearing on Monday. Click here to listen to audio of the proceeding.