Criminal Justice

MN Ruling Could Help Craig

A recent Minnesota appeals court ruling could help Sen. Larry Craig in efforts to withdraw his guilty plea for disorderly conduct.

Craig’s lawyer has confirmed he will try to withdraw his plea, entered after he was accused of soliciting an undercover police officer for sex in a restroom at the Minneapolis airport, the New York Times reports.

Last week the Court of Appeals of Minnesota allowed a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea to burglary under a state law that allows pleas to be withdrawn to correct a manifest injustice, the New York Times reports in a separate story.

The defendant, Rickford R. Munger, had admitted he pulled back a curtain through an open window to peek into a woman’s bedroom. He made the admission as part of a guilty plea to burglary in exchange for a promise not to sentence him as a career offender.

The appeals court said in its opinion that the state had not established the defendant planned to commit a crime within the building, an element of the crime of burglary. Because the factual basis did not support the plea, it could be withdrawn, the court concluded.

Craig could make a similar claim, the Times says. His written plea, which acknowledged engaging in conduct that can arouse alarm or resentment, only partly tracks the language of the crime of disorderly conduct.

That statute bars engaging in “offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous or noisy conduct or in offensive, obscene or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger or resentment in others.”

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