A Minnesota judge has denied Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s bid to withdraw his guilty plea to misdemeanor charges in a restroom sex-solicitation sting.
Hennepin County District Judge Charles A. Porter also denied prosecutors’ bid to block arguments from the American Civil Liberties Union in support of Craig, though he found those arguments “without merit” with regard to Craig’s case.
The judge found that Craig’s guilty plea to disorderly conduct was accurate. “The defendant knew or should have known his entrance into Sgt. (Dave) Karsnia’s stall with his eyes, foot and hand are the type of acts that would ‘tend reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others,’” the judge wrote in his order.
He also dismissed arguments from Craig’s attorneys that Craig’s mailed-in plea was inappropriate because if the Idaho senator had filed it in person, a Minnesota judge would have asked him questions that would have led to dismissing the plea. “The defendant chose to not appear (in court) and to enter his plea by mail just so he could avoid any such publicly, of record, inquiry into his conduct,” Porter wrote. “He kept many of the facts out of the record in so doing. He cannot now complain that he should not have been allowed to take advantage of an approved method to enter a misdemeanor plea.”
The judge also noted, “By signing and dating each page of the guilty plea petition, the defendant acknowledged that his waiver of appearance also waived the right to present evidence contrary to a conviction.”
Craig was arrested June 11, and pleaded guilty by mail in August. He kept the incident quiet until news reports on it came out Aug. 27.
Craig said earlier that he’d resign from the U.S. Senate on Sept. 30 in the wake of the incident, but then said he’d remain in office and try to clear his name. He’s stayed despite intense pressure from Senate GOP leaders to resign.
He pleaded guilty to the reduced charge after an undercover officer said Craig peered into his stall in a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport men’s room, then entered the next stall, tapped his foot, slid his foot over to touch the officer’s foot, and made repeated hand gestures under the stall divider wall – all recognized signals of soliciting sex. The officer’s stakeout of the restroom was part of a four-month undercover operation that netted more than 40 arrests, in response to repeated complaints of lewd conduct.