A former Little Rock youth pastor pleaded guilty today to transporting minors across state lines for the purpose of unlawful sexual activity. Robert Shiflet, 50, now of Denton, Texas, entered his guilty plea before United States District Judge Lee P. Rudofsky. Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Diane Upchurch, Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock Field Office of the FBI, announced today’s guilty plea
Shiflet pleaded guilty to two separate instances of criminal conduct. One of these accounts began in 1996, when Shiflet met a 14-year-old girl in the youth group he pastored in Denton, Texas. Shiflet frequently made inappropriate comments to the minor and often told her he loved her. In May of 1997, when the minor was 15 years old, Shiflet led an eighth grade camping trip to the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. Shiflet was able to isolate the minor away from the group and then sexually assaulted her. He told her not to tell anyone.
Another minor reported that in 2002, when Shiflet was her youth pastor at a Little Rock church, Shiflet engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with her when she was 16 years old. Shiflet had sex with the minor multiple times during 2002-2003, when Shiflet was 32. In the summer of 2002, the youth group attended an event in Panama City, Florida. On that trip, Shiflet asked the minor to ride on the charter bus with him instead of riding on another bus with her friends. On the bus ride, he sexually assaulted the minor.
“This defendant took advantage of his position of trust as a mentor to young people and instead used his power to isolate and sexually abuse them,” stated U.S. Attorney Hiland. “This predatory behavior is never acceptable, but it is particularly disturbing when the offender is a youth pastor. Our office will continue to aggressively pursue those who commit these deplorable crimes.”
Shiflet was indicted in June 2020 with three counts of transportation of a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity and one count of coercion of a minor to engage in sexual activity. In exchange for his guilty plea, the remaining charges were dismissed.
Judge Rudofsky will sentence Shiflet at a later date. Transportation of a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity is punishable by not more than 15 years imprisonment and not more than three years of supervised release. The case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kristin Bryant.