Larry Craig

Excerpts from the judge's court order regarding Craig's request to withdraw guilty plea

Excerpts from Fourth District Court Judge Charles A. Porter's court order regarding the State of Minnesota vs. Larry Edwin Craig:

LEGAL ANALYSIS:

Disorderly conduct is not a specific intent crime. “Specific intent means that the Defendant acted with the intent to produce a specific result, whereas general interest means only that the Defendant intentionally engaged in prohibited conduct.” State v. Vance,734 N.W.2d 650, 656 (Minn. 2007) (emphasis in original). Disorderly conduct is in fact a general intent crime because the statute requires that the defendant do an act (or engage in speech) with either the actual or imputed knowledge that his or her action would offend a reasonable person, but does not require that the defendant actually intend that the person be so alarmed, offended, etc. The statute does not require that the Defendant act with the intent to offend.

Standard for Withdrawal

... a criminal defendant does not have an absolute right to withdraw a guilty plea. Shorter v. State, 511 N.W.2d 743, 746 (Minn. 1994).

However, the standard for withdrawal is higher after the sentence is imposed: the court may allow a defendant to withdraw the plea only if the motion is timely made and “withdrawal is necessary to correct a manifest injustice.” ... A manifest injustice occurs when a plea is not accurately, voluntarily, or intelligently made.

The Motion is Not So Untimely as to Render it Procedurally Invalid

The State argues the Court should not consider the Defendant’s motion to withdraw on the merits at all, because the motion is untimely brought.

Rather, the State argues that the reason given to withdraw the plea is not intrinsic to the case itself but is motivated by the social and political events that have taken place since August 8, and that the motion is an attempt by the Defendant to backpedal in hopes of a more socially favorable outcome. In essence the State maintains that the Defendant waited until external political events compelled him to act to protect his political career.

The Defendant has not expressed dissatisfaction with the actual terms of his sentence, which consists solely of a financial penalty of $575 provided that he does not commit any same or similar violations for one year. Likewise, he does not challenge the legal validity of the conviction or the fairness or appropriateness of the negotiation. The timing of the motion relative to the social and political events that began when the case became publicized, approximately three weeks after the plea was entered and sentence was imposed, the State suggests, makes the motion untimely as it is politically, rather than legally, motivated. While the Court has a vital interest in the finality of the voluntary pleas and of convictions and sentences based thereon, the lack of any significant prejudice to the State by the delay, and the Defendant’s relative diligence in seeking withdrawal, make it unjust to dismiss the Defendant’s Motion as untimely without ruling on the merits.

Here, the Defendant argues the court erred in accepting his guilty plea and in imposing the negotiated sentence without memorializing the acceptance on the petition itself. In this argument, the Defendant suggests the postconviction court should ignore the evidence of the substantive validity of the plea, and should also ignore that the plea was entered in the regular course of the court’s calendaring and record keeping system, and finally should disregard the fact that the sentence was imposed by and under the authority of Judge Larson. While the absence of a signature or a transcribed verbal acceptance may be a technical deficiency in this plea record, it is not fatal to the conviction. The Defendant has not met his burden of proving that because Judge Larson did not acknowledge his acceptance of the plea in writing on the petition document, Judge Larson did not actually accept the plea in this case which was regularly calendared to him.

The Defendant next argues that his guilty plea lacked a sufficient factual basis. The petition provides the following factual basis: ...... This factual basis contains the requisite date, location, and elements of the offense, but clearly does not describe, in detail, the conduct that substantively supports each element of the offense. The Defendant argues that because the factual basis in the petition lacks detail, he was therefore not aware of the facts underlying his conduct coinciding with the elements of the offense, or more importantly, that he was not admitting to have engaged in that conduct. This is illogical. The Defendant admits in his postconviction affidavit that he pled in haste in an effort to avoid the public disclosure of the very facts which he now maintains should have been painstakingly detailed in the petition and therefore of record memorializing his admission to specific acts. This Court believes that the Defendant’s plea had a more than sufficient factual basis on the fact of the petition.

Here, because the Defendant concedes Sgt. Karsnia’s facts as alleged in the Complaint are true, and because a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the restroom stall, the facts alleged in the Complaint provide a sufficient supplemental factual basis for a conviction of disorderly conduct. The Defendant knew or should have known his entrance into Sgt. 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.” Minn.Stat. 609.72, subd. 1(3).

The Defendant next argues the overall plea record is deficient because Judge Larson did not question him on the record about the factual basis. The Defendant reasons that if Judge Larson had questioned him live, Judge Larson would have realized the Defendant did not intend to plead guilty to the specific facts alleged by Sgt. Karsnia. This is a circular argument. The Defendant chose to not appear and to enter his plea by mail just so he could avoid any such publicly, of record, inquiry into his conduct. 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.

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. Nothing in the petition even hints at a lack of guilt of the offense of disorderly conduct. Nothing in this record supports, in any way, a contention by the Defendant, that in any of his dealings with Mr. Renz or with the court, he denied his guilt. Because the Defendant waived his appearance for the plea and sentencing, he cannot challenge the absence of questioning of him by the court about the factual basis for the plea and his admission to those facts. It is not a manifest injustice to force the Defendant to be bound by his plea bargain and the waivers and admissions which he made in conjunction with the execution of that bargain.

The Defendant’s Guilty Plea Was Voluntary

The Defendant argues his plea was not voluntary because he pled guilty in response to media pressure and to a police interrogation. A plea is voluntary if it is not made in response to improper pressures of inducements.

... This pressure was entirely perceived by the Defendant and was not a result of any action by the police, the prosecutor, or the court.

The Defendant next argues he pled guilty on August 8, 2007, in reaction to an “aggressive” police interrogation that occurred during his arrest on June 11, 2007.

In this case, the interrogation transcript does not evidence an improperly aggressive interrogation.

The Defendant may have felt intimidated by the situation, but he also acted with a degree of confidence when, upon arriving at the POC, he identified himself as a United States Senator and said, “What do you think about that?” Renz Aff. Ex. A.

Sgt. Karsnia appeared sometimes understanding, sometimes disbelieving during the interrogation. Sgt. Karsnia told the Defendant that he could avoid appearing in court, and thereby avoid the publicity of the Sgt. testifying in open court, by pleading guilty and paying a fine. An offer of help does not render a defendant’s statement to police involuntary “as long as the police have not implied that a confession may be given in lieu of criminal prosecution.” ... Here, Sgt. Karsnia never promised or even suggested that the Defendant would not have to face (and plead guilty to) criminal charges.

The two month lapse in time between the arrest and the plea negates any reasonable conclusion that the questioning by Sgt. Karsnia in June overrode the Defendant’s free will in such a way that he was forced by events in June, to plead guilty in August. It is hard to imagine that any interrogation could be that aggressive, but clearly the one here was not. During the two months between the arrest and the guilty plea, the Defendant had several rational and methodical conversations with the prosecutor, including one in which the prosecutor extended a plea offer and advised the Defendant to consult an attorney. Mr. Renz was clearly the Defendant’s actual adversary and the Defendant knew it.

... the circumstances surrounding the June 22 conversation contradict the Defendant’s assertion that Sgt. Karsnia’s intimidation continued to control him through August 8. This court concludes that the Defendant was not a victim of police or prosecutorial coercion. There was no manifest injustice in the pressures to plead as perceived by the Defendant.

The Defendant’s Guilty Plea Was Intelligent

... The Defendant, a career politician with a college education, is of, at least, above-average intelligence. He knew what he was saying, reading, and signing.

... the Defendant’s waiver of an attorney is valid. The Defendant is an educated adult, who was advised by the prosecutor himself to consult an attorney. He knew of that right when he went back to the POC to get the prosecutor’s information so he could have his “attorney contact him.” The fact that the Defendant chose not to consult an attorney, to his detriment, does not render his waiver invalid.

... there is no evidence the Defendant was in any way manipulated into executing the plea petition and its waivers. The Defendant’s procedural waivers are valid.

... Here, the charges against the Defendant were stated in plain language, and given his intelligence, the Defendant undoubtedly understood them. Even though the Defendant says he rushed to plead guilty, his perceived haste that occurred over the course of two months did not diminish the Defendant’s ability to understand the charges. The time period between the arrest and the conviction here is almost exactly the period provided in the rules for a demanded speedy trial in a misdemeanor case involving an out-of-custody defendant. The Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that a speedy trial is one that is commenced within sixty days of the entry of a “not guilty” plea for an out-of-custody misdemeanor defendant. ... Presumably, the Supreme Court in promulgating the rule did not consider this time procedurally too short.

The language of the plea petition is also clear.

The Defendant signed each page of the plea petition without changing and initialing any of these statements. ... To the extent the Defendant now argues that he believed or understood something contrary to the statements in the petition at the time he signed the petition, he is in fact saying that he made affirmative misrepresentations to the Court when he signed and submitted the petition. The Defendant’s duress arguments, addressed throughout this memorandum, are clearly inadequate to overcome the evidence of his discussions with the State about the case, the plea, and the petition, including the evidence of the Defendant’s signature on each page accepting the clear terms of the petition.

... In this case, the Defendant argues he maintained his innocence even through the date of his guilty plea. The pre-plea court record contains no evidence of the Defendant asserting his innocence at any time. The Defendant never entered a plea of “not guilty.” He has not asserted that he told Mr. Renz that he was not guilty. Rather, he waived his appearance and pled guilty on the date of his first appearance. The Defendant had several conversations with Mr. Renz prior to pleading guilty, but even these conversations involving plea negotiation are not alleged by the Defendant to have contained protestations of a lack of guilt. At the time Judge Larson accepted the Defendant’s plea petition, the court’s record of this case contained no information in the nature of a denial of guilt such as to put Judge Larson on notice of the need for further inquiry. ...

“... because the accused has not achieved an unwarranted hope.” ... Here, the plea petition states, in plain language, that the Defendant understands the plea agreement involves no promises other than the crime of which he will be convicted, the charge to be dismissed, and the sentence to be imposed. The petition allows no room for the Defendant to genuinely argue he expected to receive an unstated benefit or penalty.

The Defendant argues Sgt. Karsnia lied when he said this case would not be made public. This argument misstates the evidence. Sgt. Karsnia told the Defendant that he had a policy of not contacting media (“I don’t call media. I don’t do any of that type of crap.”) Craig Memo. Ex. C at 3. Sgt. Karsnia did not broadly represent that the media would never find out about this case.

The police are allowed to lie to defendants during interrogation so long as the police do not falsely promise no prosecution in exchange for a confession, and do not coerce the defendant, make improper threats, or use physical intimidation. Farnsworth ... ...there is neither an allegation nor evidence that Sgt. Karsnia directly or indirectly caused this case to become public.

The Defendant argues he pled quickly to keep a low profile and preemptively avoid suffering undesired social and political consequences. Any consequence that does not flow definitely, immediately, and automatically from the plea and sentence is a collateral consequence. State v. Byron, ...

... Because negative attention is not a direct consequence of the Defendant’s conviction in this case, it is not an appropriate basis for plea withdrawal.The Defendant’s guilty plea was intelligently made. Judge Larson’s acceptance of this intelligent plea is not a manifest injustice.

The Evidence Supports the Conviction for Disorderly Conduct

... The evidence that the Defendant intentionally entered into Sgt. Karsnia’s stall with his eyes, hand, and foot, establishes that the Defendant violated the right to privacy in an offensive way that would reasonably tend to cause anger, alarm, or resentment in the stall’s occupant.

The fact that Sgt. Karsnia was an undercover police officer and not a private citizen using the restroom for its traditional purpose does not diminish the criminality of the Defendant’s conduct because the statute requires only that the offensive conduct “tends reasonably” to cause alarm, anger, or resentment, and not that the conduct must actually cause alarm, anger, or resentment.

The Defendant has not produced any newly discovered exculpatory evidence that could significantly weaken Sgt. Karsnia’s proffered testimony. The State’s proffered evidence is sufficient to establish that the Defendant engaged in disorderly conduct on June 11, 2007 in the men’s public restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Bloomington, Hennepin County, Minnesota.

The Disorderly Conduct Statute is Necessary to Preserve Order in a Civilized Society

The Defendant challenges the disorderly conduct statute as a whole on the basis that it is overly broad and vague. However, the statute has been upheld as constitutionally valid. ...

The disorderly conduct statute is a broad, “catch-all” statute designed to criminalize certain behavior that is offensive and counterproductive to a civilized society. ...

The ACLU’s Arguments are Without Merit when Applied to the Circumstances of this Case

... Nevertheless, their argument in the context of this case is inapplicable and potentially misleading, because S.L.J. focuses only on the verbal “language” portion of the disorderly conduct statute, whereas in the present case, the Defendant is charged under the non-verbal “conduct” portion of the statute. S.L.J. limits the verbal “language” portion of the statute to “fighting words,” but does not address or place any constitutional limitation on the non-verbal conduct portion of the statute.

The ACLU also argues the conviction is void because individuals engaging in consensual sex in a public restroom stall have a reasonable expectation of privacy under State v. Bryant, 177 N.W.2d 800 (Minn. 1970). While, depending on the facts of any particular case, that may be true, the acts alleged in this case are the solicitation, not the sex act, and the criminal behavior is the Defendant’s entry into an occupied stall with his eyes, hand, and foot. The ACLU’s arguments are here without merit.

CONCLUSION

Because the Defendant’s plea was accurate, voluntary, and intelligent, and because the conviction is supported by the evidence, the Defendant’s conviction for disorderly conduct occurring on June 11, 2007 in the men’s public restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Bloomington, Hennepin County, Minnesota, is valid. Accordingly, the Defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea is DENIED.

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