Larry Craig

Craig will argue that court should have allowed withdrawal of guilty plea

In this file photo, Sen. Larry Craig takes part in a Senate Environment and Public Works hearing in Washington.
In this file photo, Sen. Larry Craig takes part in a Senate Environment and Public Works hearing in Washington. Dennis Cook/AP

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Larry Craig will argue that a Minnesota court made a mistake when it didn't let him withdraw his guilty plea to disorderly conduct after he was charged following a sex sting last summer.

Police at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport failed to prove that Craig engaged in disorderly conduct, his lawyers argued in a brief filed Tuesday afternoon on behalf of the Idaho Republican.

And even though Craig pleaded guilty to that crime, the courts should allow him to withdraw his guilty plea to the misdemeanor, his lawyers said in their brief.

"Courts must be vigilant to ensure that the facts in the record satisfy each of the essential elements of the crime," according to the brief, filed with the Minnesota Court of Appeals. A district court judge ruled in October that Craig couldn't withdraw his guilty plea.

Craig appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals. The district court judge shot down Craig's main argument that he made a mistake when he pleaded guilty to the disorderly conduct charge in connection with the men's room sex sting.

Craig, who was arrested June 11, had six weeks to make a decision that he would plead guilty, the judge wrote, and it was plenty of time to weigh his options.

Originally, Craig was arrested after an undercover police officer said the senator tried to solicit sex from him in a men's room at the airport.

"The defendant argues he pleaded in haste to prevent the allegation in this case from being publicized, thus doing damage to his political reputation. This pressure was entirely perceived by the defendant and was not a result of any action by the police, the prosecutor or the court," wrote Judge Charles Porter Jr.

Porter scolded Craig for his argument that his plea was "not intelligently made."

"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," Porter wrote.