Publicity led Craig to withdraw plea, prosecutor says

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 24, 2007 - 9:01 PM

The senator was aware of the law when he entered his guilty plea, a memo says. A hearing will be heard Wednesday.

Political calculations -- not injustice -- drove U.S. Sen. Larry Craig to move to withdraw his guilty plea for disorderly conduct in a men's room at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, according to a memo filed Monday in opposition to the senator's request.

Craig's attempt to withdraw his plea is nothing more than his dissatisfaction with how the matter turned out for him, wrote Christopher Renz in his petition filed as the prosecutor for the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

"Until his plea of guilty became public, the defendant did not proclaim any concern, remorse, or regret with having accepted the plea agreement that afforded him the ability to plead guilty to the lesser of the two charges, have a stayed jail sentence and pay a portion of the total fine," Renz wrote.

Craig, R-Idaho, claimed that his guilty plea constituted a "manifest injustice" because he was under pressure from the Idaho Statesman newspaper, which was conducting an investigation into his sexual orientation.

The 43-page petition filed in Hennepin County District Court said nothing about Craig's plea reaching the high bar for "manifest injustice" that is needed to rescind a plea. "In addition, denial of the defendant's motion prevents further politicking and game playing," the petition said.

In a petition filed on his behalf earlier this month, Craig's lawyers said that the senator feared his arrest in the sting would prompt the Idaho Statesman to publish the story about his sexuality and that he "felt compelled to grasp the lifeline offered to him by the police officer, namely that if he were to submit to an interview and plead guilty, then none of the officer's allegations would be made public."

Craig's spokeswoman Judy Smith did not return a call.

He entered his plea by mail in August after his arrest June 11. The police report alleged that Craig had solicited sex from police Sgt. Dave Karsnia; Craig denies it.

After his arrest became public, the Idaho Statesman published its five-month investigation into previous allegations of homosexual behavior. The senator, who is married, has said he is not gay.

Memo cited several calls

The prosecution's memo said Craig spoke with Renz and left voice mails several times to talk about his case. During all conversations and voice mails, Renz observed that Craig's "manner was calm and collected" and his "questions intelligent and methodical," the memo said.

When Craig submitted his plea to Renz, it was accompanied by a handwritten note thanking the prosecutor for his "cooperation," the petition said.

"Nothing in the prosecution's conversations with the defendant indicated urgency, panic or confusion," the memo said.

The prosecution memo also disputes Craig's claim that he "chose to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit based in part on the law enforcement officer's inaccurate statements that doing so would ensure that the alleged actions would not be made public."

Renz called the assertion a further attempt by Craig to "avoid any responsibility for his own actions, as was the suggestion that the Idaho Statesmen pressure led him to plead."

Craig was well aware that Renz, not Karsnia, controlled the outcome of the case, the memo said.

Finally, Renz argued that Craig's background and position indicate the plea was entered intelligently. Craig has a college degree and has been in Congress for nearly 30 years. Craig "has written, argued, debated and voted on the laws of this country," Renz wrote, adding that Craig sponsored at least 10 bills in the area of criminal law.

Craig's motion will be heard at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday before Hennepin County District Court Judge Charles Porter Jr. at the court's Southdale center. Craig has said he may or may not resign from the Senate depending on the outcome.

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