Craig lawyers dispute 'prehensile stare'

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 12, 2008 - 1:03 AM

The Idaho senator's lawyers accused the prosecution of exaggerating the June incident in an airport bathroom.

In a bid to get U.S. Sen. Larry Craig's disorderly conduct conviction overturned, defense lawyers filed a brief taking issue with the prosecution's "exaggerating flourishes," including the use of term "prehensile stare" to describe the senator's gaze in the men's room at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

In the initial arrest report, Sgt. Dave Karsnia said Craig was "standing about three feet away" as he "looked" into the stall, according to the brief filed Tuesday by Thomas Kelly and Billy Martin for the Republican senator from Idaho.

Craig wants to withdraw the mail-in guilty plea he submitted in the summer. Hennepin County District Judge Charles Porter already rejected Craig's request. The defense lawyers filed a response brief with the state Court of Appeals.

Craig was arrested in June as part of a sweep targeting solicitation in a men's bathroom at the airport. Karsnia said he arrested Craig after the senator peered into his stall, entered the stall next to him and then tapped his feet and swiped his hand under the divider, allegedly as a way to signal a desire for sex.

After the arrest became public, Craig said that his actions were misinterpreted and that he is not gay. He then attempted to withdraw his plea.

Prosecutor Christopher Renz has said repeatedly that Craig's plea was entered voluntarily. In his brief, he also argued that the defense attempted to minimize Craig's conduct to solely what happened in the stall. Defense lawyers say Craig's behavior doesn't constitute a crime in part because it doesn't offend or alarm other people in the room.

"The state argues that [Craig's] prehensile stare in the main open part of the airport bathroom would tend to alarm the passing public," Craig's lawyers wrote. "The record does not support this conclusory exaggeration."

The defense wants the Court of Appeals to correct a "manifest injustice" by overturning the plea.

Arguments have not been scheduled.

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747

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