Senator Seeks Withdrawal of Guilty Plea in Sex Sting
Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) still says he did not solicit sex in a restroom stall after he pleaded guilty to doing just that.
ST. PAUL — A lawyer for Senator Larry E. Craig asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Wednesday to allow Mr. Craig to withdraw a guilty plea to disorderly conduct after his arrest in a sex-sting operation at an airport men’s room last year.
Mr. Craig, Republican of Idaho, was arrested on June 11, 2007, at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport by an undercover airport police officer, Sgt. Dave Karsnia.
In his sworn complaint, Sergeant Karsnia stated that Mr. Craig had stared at him from outside a men’s-room stall for about two minutes. After entering the next stall, the complaint said, Mr. Craig tapped his foot and swiped his hand beneath the partition separating him from the officer. Those gestures are recognized as signaling interest in a sexual encounter, according to the complaint.
Presiding judge Natalie E. Hudson said the complaint seemed detailed, noting the officer said from Craig's peeking through the crack between the officer's stall door and frame the officer could see Craig had blue eyes.
Mr. Martin disagreed with Judge Hudson’s description of the complaint. “We don’t know how long the crack is, how big the crack is,” Mr. Martin said. “We don’t know,” he said, if Senator Craig simply glanced at the crack twice “or if it was continuous staring.”
“Your Honor, you’re guessing,” Mr. Martin said. “You shouldn’t have to guess on appeal.”
The senator's attorney also argued that the officer was the one trying to engage Craig and that the senator's mailed-in guilty plea was not reviewed by a judge.
The prosecutor, Chris Renz, responded that by mailing in his plea, Mr. Craig waived his right to question the evidence.
Ignoring the fact that Mr. Craig waited nearly two months to file his plea, Mr. Martin told reporters outside court that his client’s decision to plead guilty to disorderly conduct was made in a pressured environment. “He was rushing,” Mr. Martin said. “He was trying to make his flight. He kept looking at his watch.”
When Sergeant Karsnia told Mr. Craig he would be able to pay a fine and the case would be resolved, he believed him, Mr. Martin said, adding, “He probably shouldn’t have.”
The appeals court has 90 days to rule, and the case could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.