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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 7, 2007

Craig broke no laws

He could have beaten the airport sting charge

Boise, Idaho--Senator Larry Craig had broken no laws when he pleaded guilty in an airport restroom sex sting.

He now says he may not resign after all.

Craig, the senior senator from Idaho, announced September 4 that he will attempt to withdraw his August 8 guilty plea to misdemeanor disorderly conduct resulting from his June 11 arrest in a men’s room of the Minneapolis airport. He intends to fight the charges and try to remain in the Senate.

This declaration followed his resignation announcement three days earlier. “It is with sadness and deep regret that I announce that it is my intent to resign from the Senate, effective September 30,” Craig said that day.

It has since been reported in The Hill newspaper that “intent” was inserted into Craig’s speech after he spoke with Pennsylvania Republican senator Arlen Specter.

Specter, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is a former prosecutor and defense attorney, and commented that he had seen sting operations like this one from both sides during his career.

“The more people take a look at the situation, there may well be second thoughts,” said Specter.

If Craig had not pleaded guilty in August to a reduced charge and instead demanded a trial, “I believe he would have been exonerated,” Specter said.

The matter has raised a number of questions about whether or not Craig is closeted, and if so, the hypocrisy of his anti-gay record.

Rumors of Craig seeking sex with other men have been in play for years. The daily Idaho Statesman spent eight months investigating the rumors earlier this year, but decided not to run the story--until the airport bust was revealed last week. Among the rumors was the claim of a 40-year-old man who said he had a sexual encounter with Craig in a restroom in Washington’s Union Station.

Gay blogger Mike Rogers outed Craig last October.

Craig was the only member of the House Ethics Committee in 1990 who voted to censure Barney Frank over his association with hustler Stephen Gobie. All other members of the committee accepted Frank’s explanation of what happened and voted for Frank to be only reprimanded.

Frank, who is gay, now says Craig should stay on.

“What he did, it’s hypocritical, but it’s not an abuse of his office in the sense that he was taking money for corrupt votes,” Frank said.

“I think people should resign when they have clearly done the job in a way that is dishonest.”

“It’s one thing to say that someone can’t be trusted to vote without being corrupt, it’s another to say that he can’t be trusted to go to the bathroom by himself,” said Frank.

Sex stings questioned

More significantly, the matter is raising questions about the appropriateness of sex sting operations. They are often used against people of the same sex who may only be flirting, while similar behavior among opposite sex couples, even in public, is met with indifference.

Even if everything happened according to the arresting officer’s statement, Craig likely broke no laws.

This is similar to what happens to men around the country, including Ohio, who get entrapped in similar sting operations all the time.

Like most of these men, Craig chose to take a plea deal in hopes that it would go away quietly.

“The conduct was patently suspicious, but mere suspicion, without more, does not--and should not--be sufficient to establish guilt,” wrote Mark Foster of the law firm Duran and Thomas in Los Angeles, in an article posted on Foster defends men who are similarly accused.

“Craig did not expose himself, make any obscene gestures, or make a clear (as in oral) proposition to engage in lewd conduct in a public place,” Foster continued.

Ohio laws require ‘affront’

In Ohio, public sexual activity is only a crime when someone is affronted by it. This must be a person other than the arresting officer, attempting to persuade someone to do something sexual with him in order to make the arrest.

Since the Ohio Supreme Court struck the law banning people from asking someone of the same sex for sex in 2002, Ohio police have generally used broad, yet vague laws such as “public indecency” and “disorderly conduct” to charge men flirting with each other in public places.

Still, like Craig, most Ohio men entrapped do not fight, allowing law enforcement to run these operations relatively unchecked.

“Those of us who defend cruisers or who just believe in justice for all should be speaking up in support of Senator Craig or at least using this opportunity to point out how widespread police abuse of powers can be for men who cruise for sex,” Foster concluded.



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