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Larry Craig returns to court to fight 2007 gay sex sting conviction

by Nick Langewis

A three-judge panel with the Minnesota Court of Appeals has heard oral arguments in Senator Larry Craig's latest attempt to clear his name, MinnPost reports.

A judge has previously ruled against him in his bid to reverse his signed guilty plea stemming from a June 2007 incident in which he was held at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport during an undercover sting under suspicion of soliciting gay sex in one of the airport's restrooms.

Senator Craig, who is retiring after his current term, decided not to follow through on a September 2007 pledge to resign after he was unable to have his conviction reversed.

Three judges with the Minnesota Court of Appeals heard the case Wednesday morning: Natalie Hudson, Thomas Kalitowski and Edward Toussaint Jr. Senator Craig's attorneys argued that while he did waive his right to appear in front of a Hennepin County judge, his written guilty plea in August of 2007 should be reversed because he did not appear in front of a judge before signing it; Craig hoped that by quietly pleading guilty, it would not reach the public sphere. According to attorney William Martin, Craig didn't consult with legal counsel before signing the plea, adding that he would advised the Senator that he did not commit a crime. Furthermore, the appeal said that a disorderly conduct conviction requires more than one person to be present and "offended." While others may have occupied the bathroom stalls surrounding Sen. Craig during his infamous June 2007 visit, there is no proof that anyone besides the officer who detained him, Sgt. David Karsnia, was "offended."

"The described conduct amounted to a communication by one person directed toward another person, who responded," the appeal added. "This communication was subject to protection under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. To apply the disorderly conduct statute to these facts, therefore, would render the statute unconstitutionally overbroad."

The three judges have 90 days to make a decision. If they turn down the appeal, the last avenue will be the Minnesota Supreme Court, which is not obligated to hear the case.

An overview of the appeal is available to read at MinnPost.

Craig, a proponent of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and opponent of gay partnership and marriage rights, has for decades denied being gay, even doing so pre-emptively during a 1982 congressional page scandal. The Idaho Statesman, however, published the stories of four men who say they were solicited for gay sex, sometimes successfully, by the Senator.

In June of this year, Senator Craig signed on with co-sponsors including the scandalized Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter to sponsor S. J. Res. 43, dubbed the Marriage Protection Amendment, which would write a heterosexual-only definition of marriage into the United States Constitution.







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Originally published on Wednesday September 10, 2008.


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