Former Miss Maryland Pleads Guilty to Obstruction in Drug Investigation

By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 7, 2009

Poised and striking, a former Miss Maryland USA stood up in a Montgomery County courtroom Thursday to answer a judge's questions about a drug case.

How do you plead?

Tia Shorts hesitated, looked at her attorney, seemingly unsure how to say it.

"Guilty," she responded quietly.

The plea bargain was the latest step in the prosecution of Shorts, who was crowned Miss Maryland USA in 2004, the same year fellow delegates awarded her the title "Miss Congeniality."

Police originally charged her with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, possession of cocaine and possession of marijuana in a case that also led to the drug-related arrests of her boyfriend and his brother and 67-year-old mother, who was found with a bag of white powder in her "bra area," police said. Prosecutors dropped those charges against Shorts. She pleaded guilty Thursday to obstructing and hindering a police investigation and is scheduled to be sentenced in November.

Shorts's attorney, David Simpson, will probably provide more details of Shorts's side of events at her sentencing. He and Shorts declined to comment Thursday.

Police say they got a tip March 31 that Joey King, Shorts's boyfriend, would be leaving their Germantown residence with heroin.

Officers followed King, stopped him and found heroin, crack cocaine and a large amount of cash during a search, authorities said. Police followed a white Pontiac from the residence, leading to the arrest of James King IV and the men's mother, Hyacinth King, according to police charging documents. The Kings were charged with a variety of offenses involving drugs and at least one gun.

At one point during the investigation, James King told police that Shorts had told him to "get the gun out of the house," Assistant State's Attorney Amy Bills said Thursday. Bills also said that Shorts called James and Hyacinth King during the investigation and that doing so supported the charge of hindering the investigation.

After Shorts's arrest this year, beauty pageant coordinator Angela Shealy described Shorts as "a very lovely lady. . . . That's why it's very sad to hear the news."

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