WASHINGTON — The prosecutor who handled U.S. Sen. Larry Craig's case scoffed Monday at the Idaho Republican's efforts to overturn his guilty plea, characterizing Craig's post-plea remorse as an example of "politicking and game playing."
There's nothing about Craig's guilty plea that meets the "high bar of manifest injustice" that merits it being overturned, wrote Christopher Renz, a lawyer who was hired to prosecute crimes at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.
Craig, arrested June 11 during an undercover sex sting in a men's room of the airport, is hoping a judge will overturn his original guilty plea and allow him to fight the charges — and possibly stave off Craig's resignation Sunday, the senator's self-imposed deadline. A spokeswoman for one of Craig's attorneys, the Washington, D.C., criminal lawyer Billy Martin, wouldn't comment Monday and said his legal team wasn't sure whether Craig would be in court Wednesday in Minnesota.
Renz sought last week to bar the American Civil Liberties Union from helping Craig, but Monday's filing was the first time Renz outlined publicly why he thinks Craig's guilty plea should be upheld.
At times, Renz appears to suggest that Craig's effort to withdraw his plea is ludicrous for a man of his position and experience. He is especially dismissive of Craig's claim that he wasn't thinking clearly because his sex life was the subject of an investigation by the Idaho Statesman.
In his motion, Craig said he was in "a state of intense anxiety" and that he "felt compelled to grasp the lifeline offered to him by the police officer; namely, that if he were to submit to an interview and plead guilty, then none of the officer's allegations would be made public."
But Craig had plenty of time to consider his decision between his June 11 arrest and his Aug. 1 decision to sign the guilty plea, Renz wrote.
"In order to believe the defendant's claim that panic drove him to his plea, the court would have to believe that this state of panic lasted over a period of a month and a half," Renz wrote.
Craig's lawyers also have said that actions the senator admitted to when he was interrogated by airport police – such as tapping his feet -- do not constitute a crime. Renz disputes that.
"Clearly a person using the restroom for its intended purpose would be angered, alarmed or have resentment were the person in the adjacent stall to move their feet over until it was on top of the innocent user's foot, only to be followed by the left hand of the offender stroking the bottom-side of the stall divider with increasing amounts of the offender's hand intruding into the stall of the innocent user," he wrote.
After the news broke of his arrest and plea a month ago, Craig blamed the Statesman's investigation into longstanding rumors that he had engaged in gay sex for the strain that led him to plead guilty without counsel.
He said he "chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away."
According to his affidavit, Renz repeatedly suggested that Craig consult with an attorney.
Renz said he received a phone call from Craig June 25, two weeks after his arrest. Renz said Craig asked him to return the call to Craig's personal cell phone. Craig also asked that any paperwork concerning the matter be sent to his Washington, D.C., address, Renz said.
They spoke again by phone July 17, when Renz said he explained that Craig could plead guilty to disorderly conduct, and that a more serious charge of interference of privacy would be dropped.
He said he told Craig the plea would be a matter of public record.
In their conversations and in the voicemails Craig left, Renz said the senator "seemed calm, intelligent, and methodical in his questions. At no time during the conversations did the defendant appear to have a tone or sense of urgency, panic or overt emotion."
Erika Bolstad: (202) 383-6104