WASHINGTON -- The prosecutor for the airport where Sen. Larry Craig wasarrested in a sex sting disputes the Idaho Republican's claim that he wasunfairly arrested.
Craig, who is trying to withdraw a guilty plea to disorderly conduct, wasunsuccessful the first time and has petitioned the Minnesota Court ofAppeals. Friday, the prosecutor filed a 242-page response to Craig’s appeal.
An undercover officer arrested Craig June 11 at the Minneapolis-St. PaulAirport, as part of an investigation into complaints about public sex inairport men’s rooms. Craig later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, butdid not hire a lawyer or disclose to anyone that he had been arrested orpleaded guilty.
In his appeal, Craig has argued that police and prosecutors failed to provethat he engaged in disorderly conduct before his arrest. Although Craigpleaded guilty to the misdemeanor, his lawyers argue that the courts shouldallow him to withdraw his plea because his actions didn’t match Minnesota’sdefinition of disorderly conduct.
But the airport’s prosecutor, Christopher Renz, disputed Craig’s claim. Thesenator was clearly engaged in disorderly conduct, Renz wrote. That behaviorincluded staring at an undercover officer though the crack in a toilet-stalldoor and then running his hand underneath the stall partition and tappinghis feet ‹ all signals the undercover officer interpreted as an attempt tosolicit sex.
“Rather than reveling in his own privacy within his closed stall, he decidedto penetrate the adjacent closed stall through multiple furtive movements ofhis eyes, feet and hands,” Renz wrote. “It is this very calling of attentionto himself and failing to remain within his closed stall that is the basisfor the charges and the appellant’s plea.”
Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan would not elaborate on the legal argumentsin the brief, saying only that the document refutes Craig’s claims. Thebrief speaks for itself, Hogan said.
“The facts of the case are already out there,” Hogan said. “It’s now just amatter of the legal arguments.”
Hogan did say that the case has been pricey for the commission that runs theMinneapolis airport. The commission has spent $17,000 so far on legal billsconnected to Craig’s appeal, Hogan said ‹ far more than it typically spendsprosecuting a misdemeanor.
The money to fight Craig’s efforts to withdraw his plea wasn’t paid for byMinnesota taxpayers, though. The bills are paid from the airport’s operatingbudget, 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 forre-election.
The senator’s office would not comment on the airport’s brief. Oralarguments in the case are scheduled for early this fall.
Craig was reprimanded earlier this month by the U.S. Senate EthicsCommittee, which issued a letter of public admonishment after a 5-1/2-monthinquiry into his behavior.
Erika Bolstad: (202) 383-6104