Senator Loses Appeal in Restroom Sex Sting
Posted Dec 9, 2008 12:49 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Sen. Larry Craig won’t be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea in a restroom sex sting.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled today that a trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Craig's petition to withdraw the plea, report the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The court upheld the disorderly conduct statute used to charge Craig, saying it is not unconstitutionally overbroad.
Craig had pleaded guilty after his arrest in June 2007. He was accused of tapping his foot and waving his hand under the partition of a restroom stall occupied by an undercover cop.
The appeals court opinion stressed a "right to be left alone" by those in neighboring bathroom stalls that justifies a ban on unwanted communication. If Craig’s conduct amounted to free speech, the court said, it was "intrusive speech directed at a captive audience" that could be banned.
“We believe that appellant’s conduct was invasive of the privacy of another and may properly be prohibited as disorderly conduct,” the court said in its 10-page opinion (PDF). "Certainly the 'privacy interest in avoiding unwanted communication' is very strong in a stall in a public restroom."
Craig's appeal had contended the complaint lacked details and the judge who accepted his plea did not review the facts. He had also claimed the statute violated his rights under the First Amendment, an argument supported by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Craig said in a statement that he is disappointed in the ruling, according to the newspaper stories. "I disagree with their conclusion and remain steadfast in my belief that nothing criminal or improper occurred at the Minneapolis airport," he said.
Hat tip to How Appealing.