TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - In a big surprise one of the Toledo pastors accusing of sex trafficking took a guilty plea in federal court Tuesday morning.
Cordell Jenkins now faces up to life in prison behind bars. That move could mean a big change in where this entire case goes next.
Tuesday was supposed to be a routine motion hearing, prepping for a trial in the first week of February. But at least one of those trials won't happen and now we wait to see what happens to the other ones.
Jenkins has been in and out of the federal courthouse in Toledo for the past year and a half but his appearance Tuesday morning might have been his most significant. He pleaded guilty to three charges. When sentencing comes around he could be facing a life sentence.
Jenkins pleaded guilty to sex trafficking children and sexual exploitation of children. He's not the first pastor to take a deal in this case, the first was Pastor Kenneth Butler. Butler pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sex traffic children, sex trafficking children and obstructing that investigation.
Neither one has been sentenced. In fact neither has a firm date for a sentencing. That might depend on the two people left in this case: Pastor Anthony Haynes and Laura Lloyd.
Haynes is accused of sex trafficking while Lloyd, who is Jenkins' ex-wife, is accused of obstructing that investigation. They are still set to stand trial in February.
We don't know yet whether they'll take any plea agreements like Jenkins did. We also don't know why he took and was allowed to take a plea agreement now.
Several firm plea deadlines have come and gone, with Jenkins never taking a deal until now.
There's a gag order in this case so no one is commenting on exact reasons for this plea deal.