Larry Craig

Craig to argue plea should've been tossed

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 in a sex sting last summer.

Police at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport failed to prove that Craig engaged in disorderly conduct, even though Craig pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor, his lawyers argued in a brief filed Tuesday afternoon.

"Courts must be vigilant to ensure that the facts in the record satisfy each of the essential elements of the crime," said the brief, filed Tuesday with the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Craig's Washington, D.C., lawyer, Billy Martin, said in a statement that "there is an insufficient factual basis to support the finding that he is guilty of violating any laws while passing through the Minneapolis airport."

Craig's office, which hasn't responded to questions from the Idaho Statesman since Sept. 19, would not comment on Tuesday's filing.

The airport's prosecutor, Christopher Renz, will file his response to Craig's brief in February, said airport spokesman Patrick Hogan.

Craig, originally charged with misdemeanor interference with privacy and disorderly conduct, negotiated with the airport prosecutor to reduce the charges to the one count of disorderly conduct. He mailed in his guilty plea Aug. 1.

"We believe that the original decision was very clear and we are confident that the case will be upheld and the guilty plea will stand," Hogan said.

The ACLU also is expected to file a brief in support of Craig within the next week.

In their brief, Craig's attorneys argue that the foot-tapping and touching that Craig engaged in with the undercover officer, under the bathroom stall divider, failed to "arouse alarm, anger or resentment," the elements required for a disorderly conduct charge.

Craig's initial appeal was denied in district court, when a judge ruled in October that the senator couldn't withdraw his guilty plea. Craig appealed that decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which could hear oral arguments in the case in September.