[Vision2020] Craig asking for 'Special Treatment'
Gray Tree Crab aka Big Bertha
gray.treecrab.aka.big.bertha at gmail.com
Wed Sep 26 14:16:29 PDT 2007
<http://www.spokesmanreview.com/>Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Prosecutor: Craig 'playing games'
Betsy Z. Russell and Jim Camden
September 25, 2007
Prosecutors in Minnesota say Idaho Sen. Larry Craig is seeking special
treatment by trying to withdraw his guilty plea in a sex solicitation sting,
and "playing games" with the state's court system by first pleading guilty,
then trying to withdraw the plea because of political fallout.
In arguments filed Monday in Hennepin County, Minn., prosecutors called on
the court to deny Craig's bid to withdraw his guilty plea. "Denial of the
defendant's motion prevents further politicking and game playing on the part
of the defendant in relation to his plea," they wrote.
Craig faces a court hearing in Minnesota on Wednesday.
Craig was arrested June 11 in a men's room at the Minneapolis-St. Paul
Airport as part of an undercover investigation into complaints of lewd
conduct there. About 40 men were ensnared in the same investigation in a
Craig pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, a
misdemeanor. As part of his plea agreement, a more serious gross misdemeanor
charge of interference with privacy was dropped.
After news surfaced about the incident in late August, Craig said an
undercover officer had misconstrued his actions and his guilty plea was a
mistake. He argued in court documents that his "fear" and "panic" over a
months-long Idaho Statesman newspaper investigation into his sexual past had
prompted him to plead guilty.
But Prosecutor Christopher Renz, prosecuting attorney for the Metropolitan
Airports Commission, said in court documents filed Monday that Craig spoke
with him by telephone three times between his arrest in June and the
submission of his guilty plea in August. "The defendant's manner was calm
and collected, and the defendant's questions intelligent and methodical,"
the prosecution arguments state. "Mr. Renz did not observe signs of urgency,
panic or overt emotion in any of his interactions with the defendant."
Furthermore, the prosecutors said many defendants face outside pressures
regarding their criminal cases, "including family pressures, financial
strain, employment concerns and addiction, among others."
They argued, "Were the court to allow the defendant to withdraw his plea on
the questionable basis that he felt pressure from an investigation by a
local newspaper, the court would be determining … that the defendant's
pressures as a United States senator trump the pressures felt by ordinary
citizens who similarly make the decision to plead guilty."
Either that, they said, or the court should be prepared to dismiss numerous
other guilty pleas in cases where defendants felt other pressures in their
lives that affected their decisions to plead guilty.
Craig's legal team had no immediate comment Monday on the prosecution's
The court documents also note that Craig was specifically informed, in a
letter from Renz that was sent with his plea agreement, that pleading guilty
would result in a criminal charge appearing on his record. Craig's attorneys
had argued that the arresting officer's statements to Craig that he wouldn't
call the media about the case led Craig to believe that if he'd just plead
guilty, the whole thing would stay quiet.
"It is clear from this sequence of events that the defendant had hoped that
he could plead guilty and that the plea would not be discovered by the media
or public," the prosecutors wrote. "The defendant chose to plead guilty and
consciously took that risk. The defendant's current pursuit of withdrawal of
his guilty plea is reactionary, calculated and political."
Prosecutors said Craig, who served in Congress for 27 years, is "an
obviously educated and knowledgeable individual," and therefore had to know
what he was signing, which included multiple statements that he was
acknowledging his guilt to the crime of disorderly conduct.
Craig's defense attorneys also have argued that the senator's actions in the
restroom, including foot-tapping and hand gestures, weren't criminal in
themselves. The prosecutors disagreed.
"The defendant did not move his foot only once as a result of his 'wide
stance,'" they wrote. After detailing the various gestures, they said,
"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 foot 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."
Acting to cause that alarm or resentment is the definition of disorderly
conduct, the prosecutors wrote. "The conduct of the defendant constitutes
the crime of disorderly conduct."
They argued that Craig was merely attempting "to avoid any responsibility
for his own actions."
Boise State University political scientist emeritus Jim Weatherby said
Monday that the new revelations – including Craig's three businesslike
conversations with prosecutors before he pleaded guilty – continue to raise
questions about the longtime politician's judgment. "There are a lot of
people who are very disappointed with the way he has handled this,"
Weatherby noted that if the court agrees to let Craig withdraw his guilty
plea on Wednesday, "The whole circus will start again," as Craig goes to
trial to fight the original charges.
Craig announced earlier that he would resign from the Senate on Sept. 30,
but then hinted he might finish out his term if he could clear his name by
that date. The uncertainty has stopped Idaho Gov. Butch Otter from naming a
replacement for Craig, though he's interviewed several candidates.
"In many respects this judicial procedure in Minnesota is irrelevant,"
Weatherby said. "I don't know that it has any major impact upon his
political career. I think the damage has been done."
Stephen Simon, who teaches at the University of Minnesota School of Law and
operates a legal clinic, said he thought Craig's attorneys failed to make
some of the strongest arguments in their earlier filing. The court record
does not show that Craig was specifically informed of his right to an
attorney, he said, and the plea document has an error in spelling and syntax
when it tries to describe the crime. Neither of those were listed as a
reason for letting him withdraw the plea.
Even though Craig was read his Miranda rights by the arresting officer,
which include the right to an attorney, judges routinely ask a defendant who
is not represented by an attorney in court if they are aware of that right,
to have that on the record, Simon said. As a U.S. senator, Craig obviously
knew he had the right to an attorney, Simon said, but that's not the point.
The standard for notification is the same for all defendants.
The standard form used by clients who plead guilty by mail specifically
includes that language, although the form Craig signed does not, said Ted
Sampsell-Jones, a professor of criminal law and evidence at William Mitchell
College of Law in St. Paul.
"It's bizarre to me" that Craig's attorney's don't make that argument,
Sampsell-Jones said. "I don't think that Sen. Craig really wants to win."
By winning the motion to withdraw his guilty plea, he added, Craig would
face a trial on two charges, the disorderly conduct and invasion of privacy.
The latter was dropped in the plea bargain.
Even though Craig's attorneys didn't raise questions about his right to
counsel, Simon said, documents filed by prosecutors Monday do address it. In
a sworn statement, Renz told Craig "it was a situation regarding which he
should seek advice from an attorney" when they were discussing his plea
Simon said Craig's lawyers are arguing that he was panicked into making the
guilty plea. He said he knows of no cases where that's been ruled a valid
reason for withdrawing a guilty plea, and Craig could have a problem proving
"He was thousands of miles away, and there's no hint of any pressure" from
the prosecutor, Simon said.
The prosecutor did make a key point in his argument that would undercut
Craig's claim that his actions were innocent, Simon added. As pointed out in
the documents filed Monday, Craig told the undercover officer when he was
arrested, "You solicited me," rather than denying any knowledge of how his
actions could be interpreted. "Craig knew what that action means," Simon
Gray Tree Crab aka "Big Bertha"
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