Sept. 27: Idaho Sen. Larry Craig to stay in office pending ruling

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 28, 2007 - 7:38 PM

Idaho Republican Larry Craig has decided he wants to be a U.S. senator a little longer.

Craig's lawyers asked a Minnesota judge Wednesday to let the three-term senator withdraw his guilty plea in a sex sting at a Minneapolis airport restroom. Afterward, Craig issued a statement saying he will stay in office "for now."

People close to Craig said that means until the judge rules.

Hennepin County District Judge Charles Porter Jr. said that will be at the end of next week at the earliest.

Before dozens of local and national news media representatives and enough onlookers to fill the 100-seat courtroom, lawyer Billy Martin made his case to allow Craig to plead not guilty and to take his disorderly conduct arrest to a jury.

Porter said that he wouldn't rule on the request until at least the end of next week.

"No matter what Senator Craig attempted to do to make this go away, this is not a crime," Martin told reporters at a news conference after the one-hour hearing.

Prosecutor Christopher Renz said Craig knew he was doing something wrong because he cried "No!" when the undercover officer flashed his badge under the restroom stall divider in the Lindbergh terminal at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Craig's attempt to withdraw his guilty plea brought a whirl of activity to the court's Southdale Service Center in Edina.

About a half-dozen TV satellite trucks and tents were set up in a corner of the parking lot. A couple of pro-Craig demonstrators came in costume and carried signs. One read: "Fight terrorists, not toe-tappers" and "Next time pee, don't plea." The signs directed readers to the website

Costumes and signs

Jason Gabbert, of Apple Valley, was dressed as an airport police officer. Anthony Wright attempted to dress as Craig. They said they brought toilets for a full-on demonstration, but were told to put them away by security officers. The two say they are political centrists, but Gabbert said Craig "shouldn't have been arrested. There was no evidence to make an arrest."

Court spokeswoman Nancy Peters said, "This is the biggest national coverage the courts have had that I've seen in at least the past 10 years."

Inside the courtroom, Porter, an experienced judge comfortable in the spotlight, sipped from a coffee mug. He ran a no-nonsense hearing, starting 15 minutes early because everyone was seated and ready.

What's disorderly conduct?

Martin insisted that Craig's actions at the airport on June 11 didn't constitute the crime of disorderly conduct. "We should not have a system of justice that allows a citizen to enter a plea of guilty for expediency to something that is not a crime," Martin argued.

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