Judge denies Craig's motion to withdraw plea in bathroom bust arrest
Update: Craig says he's staying in Senate
A Minnesota judge has denied Sen. Larry Craig's attempt to withdraw his guilty plea after he was caught up in a public-restroom sex sting, but the Idaho Senator says he continues to explore his legal options and will not leave the Senate.
Craig's guilty plea to disorderly conduct was "accurate, voluntary and intelligent" and "the conviction is supported by the evidence," according to the judge's opinion, which was released Thursday.
"I am extremely disappointed with the ruling issued today. I am innocent of the charges against me. I continue to work with my legal team to explore my additional legal options," Craig said in a statement released by his office. "I will continue to serve Idaho in the United States Senate, and there are several reasons for that. As I continued to work for Idaho over the past three weeks here in the Senate, I have seen that it is possible for me to work here effectively.
The Idaho Republican's legal saga began in June when he was arrested for what police said were attempts to solicit an undercover officer in a men's room at the Minneapolis airport. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in an apparent attempt to keep the story of his arrest hidden.
After news of the arrest broke in August, Craig first said he would resign by Sept. 30, then changed his mind and stayed in office while he fought the guilty plea. Now that his legal options appear exhausted, Republicans are expected to renew their attempts to push Craig from office.
Craig's office did not return RAW STORY's calls seeking clarification of his future plans. Idaho's Republican governor would replace Craig if he decides to step down, meaning his resignation almost certainly would not tip the balance of power in the Senate.
The saga sparked by Craig's "wide stance" has made him a laughing stock in political circles, although he did have his defenders. A property rights group called the senator's arrest akin to "war on the west", and the American Civil Liberties Union said Craig, along with every other American, has the same right to solicit sex in a bathroom as they do in a bar, as long as the actual sex would happen in private.
Craig has denied that he is gay and fiercely refuted allegations he did anything inappropriate in the bathroom where he was arrested. Police say Craig peered into an undercover officer's stall for two minutes before entering an adjoining toilet, where he tapped his foot and reached under the stall divider in ways suggesting he wanted to engage in lewd behavior.
The guilty plea Craig entered six weeks after his June 11 arrest was not intelligently made, the senator argued, because he was facing pressure from a local newspaper's investigation into his sex life. Judge Charles Porter Jr. shot down that reasoning and said that Craig did not have cause to withdraw his plea because the pressure was not being applied by police or prosecutors.
"The Defendant, a career politician with a college education, is of, at least, above-average intelligence. He knew what he was saying, reading, and signing, Porter wrote, according to the Idaho Statesman, which published an article questioning Craig's claims of heterosexuality after his bathroom arrest was revealed.
A spokesman for the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, where Craig was arrested, released a statement praising the judge's decision soon after it was announced Thursday.
We are pleased with Judge Porter's order upholding Senator Larry Craig's guilty plea. The ruling continues to hold Senator Craig accountable for his conduct in a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport restroom in June," spokesman Patrick Hogan said. "In determining that Senator Craig's plea is just and binding, the court ensures the plea negotiation process can continue to serve as an effective, efficient tool in the criminal justice system.