UPDATE 6:37 p.m. -- Prosecutors say Sen. Craig's conviction in sex sting should stand

ebolstad@idahostatesman.comFebruary 22, 2008 

WASHINGTON -- The prosecutor for the airport where Sen. Larry Craig was arrested in a sex sting disputes the Idaho Republican's claim that he was unfairly arrested.

Craig, who is trying to withdraw a guilty plea to disorderly conduct, was unsuccessful the first time and has petitioned the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Friday, the prosecutor filed a 242-page response to Craig’s appeal.

An undercover officer arrested Craig June 11 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, as part of an investigation into complaints about public sex in airport men’s rooms. Craig later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, but did not hire a lawyer or disclose to anyone that he had been arrested or pleaded guilty.

In his appeal, Craig has argued that police and prosecutors failed to prove that he engaged in disorderly conduct before his arrest. Although Craig pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor, his lawyers argue that the courts should allow him to withdraw his plea because his actions didn’t match Minnesota’s definition of disorderly conduct.

But the airport’s prosecutor, Christopher Renz, disputed Craig’s claim. The senator was clearly engaged in disorderly conduct, Renz wrote. That behavior included staring at an undercover officer though the crack in a toilet-stall door and then running his hand underneath the stall partition and tapping his feet ‹ all signals the undercover officer interpreted as an attempt to solicit sex.

“Rather than reveling in his own privacy within his closed stall, he decided to penetrate the adjacent closed stall through multiple furtive movements of his eyes, feet and hands,” Renz wrote. “It is this very calling of attention to himself and failing to remain within his closed stall that is the basis for the charges and the appellant’s plea.”

Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan would not elaborate on the legal arguments in the brief, saying only that the document refutes Craig’s claims. The brief speaks for itself, Hogan said.

“The facts of the case are already out there,” Hogan said. “It’s now just a matter of the legal arguments.”

Hogan did say that the case has been pricey for the commission that runs the Minneapolis airport. The commission has spent $17,000 so far on legal bills connected to Craig’s appeal, Hogan said ‹ far more than it typically spends prosecuting a misdemeanor.

The money to fight Craig’s efforts to withdraw his plea wasn’t paid for by Minnesota taxpayers, though. The bills are paid from the airport’s operating budget, which comes from airport users.

Craig has spent $201,420 of his campaign account toward legal bills, according to his two most recent FEC filings. He does not plan to run for re-election.

The senator’s office would not comment on the airport’s brief. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for early this fall.

Craig was reprimanded earlier this month by the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee, which issued a letter of public admonishment after a 5-1/2-month inquiry into his behavior.

Erika Bolstad: (202) 383-6104

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