Republican Senator Gets Busted in Notorious Airport Bathroom

Larrycraig_2

Republican Senator Larry Craig sat in the stall next an undercover officer, peered through the crack for two minutes, then began tapping his right foot and then touched his right foot to the left foot of the officer and brushed his hand beneath the partition. Craig was arrested before getting what he came for.


GOP Senator Pleaded Guilty After Restroom Arrest
Idaho’s Craig Denies ‘Inappropriate Conduct,’ Says He Regrets Entering Plea

By Paul Kane and Shailagh Murray
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer and Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 28, 2007; A01

Sen. Larry E. Craig pleaded guilty earlier this month to misdemeanor disorderly-conduct charges stemming from his June arrest by an undercover police officer in a men’s restroom at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, a court spokeswoman and the senator’s office said yesterday.

Craig issued a statement confirming his arrest and guilty plea, which were reported in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. But the Idaho Republican maintained that he had not engaged in any “inappropriate conduct” and that the airport police misunderstood his behavior.

“At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct,” Craig said. “I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously.”

Now in his third term, Craig, 62, has been a member of the Senate Republican leadership and ran unsuccessfully in 2002 to become the GOP whip, the No. 2 leadership job. He has been a prominent figure on gun rights and Western land issues, and he resigned yesterday as Idaho chairman of the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R).

Craig “did not want to be a distraction,” said Romney spokesman Matt Rhoades, “and we accept his decision.”

Roll Call, citing a copy of a report by airport police, said officers had been conducting a sting operation inside the men’s room because of complaints of sexual activity there. The police report gives this account of the arrest:

The undercover officer was monitoring the restroom on June 11. A few minutes after noon, Craig entered and sat in the stall next to him. Craig began tapping his right foot, touched his right foot to the left foot of the officer and brushed his hand beneath the partition between them. He was then arrested.

While he was being interviewed about the incident, Craig gave police a business card showing that he is a U.S. senator. “What do you think about that?” Craig asked the officer, according to the report obtained by Roll Call.

Airport police declined to comment last night. Nancy Peters, a spokeswoman for the Hennepin County District Court, confirmed the charges. She said Craig paid $500 in fines and was placed on one year’s probation, beginning Aug. 8, the date he pleaded guilty. He could face an additional $500 in fines and a 10-day jail sentence if he violates probation.

Senate GOP leaders said yesterday that they were shocked by the news but declined to comment further. “We just found out about this incident late this afternoon,” said Josh Holmes, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Because Craig pleaded guilty to a crime, the incident may be reviewed by the Senate ethics committee. Its chairman, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), declined to comment last night.

In 2006, a gay activist said he had spoken with men who had sexual encounters with Craig, including in the restrooms at Union Station. Craig’s office told the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash., that the allegations were “completely ridiculous.”

The activist, Mike Rogers, who runs the Web site BlogActive.com, has complained about Craig’s opposition to gay rights. The conservative senator has supported an amendment to the Constitution banning same-sex marriage and voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in the 1990s. Craig, who served in the National Guard, has also spoken out against homosexuals serving in the military.

Craig was a member of the “Singing Senators,” a now-defunct Republican barbershop quartet. It included Sen. Trent Lott (Miss.) and then-Sen. John D. Ashcroft (Mo.), who broke up the group when he was named attorney general.

Craig was chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, the fourth-ranking GOP leadership job, from 1996 to 2002. He also played a prominent role in recent immigration battles, championing rights for illegal farmworkers — an advocacy that made the staunch conservative an unlikely target of groups opposing illegal immigrants.

Craig is married and has three grown children. He will complete his third Senate term next year, after serving 10 years in the House, and speculation has swirled for months that he may retire. Spokesman Dan Whiting said the senator will announce his decision this fall.

On June 30, Craig reported $550,000 in the bank for a reelection race, a healthy sum in the heavily Republican state.

His leading Democratic challenger is former congressman Larry LaRocco, a Boise banker and onetime Senate staffer. He already is campaigning aggressively, baling hay and laying pipe on a “Working for the Senate” tour. LaRocco reported raising $80,000 through June 30 and has lost repeated attempts at state office, including a House race to Craig in 1982 and a bid for lieutenant governor in November. He served two terms in the House in the early 1990s.

On the Republican side, if Craig does not run again, one colorful match could pit veterinarian Rex Rammell against Jim Risch, who as governor had ordered state officials to kill elk that had escaped from Rammell’s ranch, in order to prevent the possible spread of disease. Rammell was arrested in September 2006 after scuffling with state wildlife officials, but he was acquitted and later sued the state for $1.3 million, according to the Idaho Statesman newspaper.

Risch has said he is interested in Craig’s seat if the senator retires. Another potential GOP candidate is Rep. Mike Simpson.

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

FROM CNN:

CNN) — Sen. Larry Craig peered through a crack in a restroom stall door for two minutes and made gestures suggesting he wanted to engage in “lewd conduct,” according to the police officer who arrested him.

Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho was arrested in June at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

1 of 2 Craig’s blue eyes were clearly visible through the crack in the door, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport police Sgt. Dave Karsnia wrote in the report he filed on the June 11 incident.

“Craig would look down at his hands, ‘fidget’ with his fingers, and then look through the crack into my stall again,” Karsnia wrote in documents accompanying the arrest report.

The Idaho Republican later said the officer misinterpreted his actions.

But Craig, 62, pleaded guilty August 8 to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge in the incident, according to Minnesota criminal records.

The officer wrote that he was on a plainclothes detail in the restroom because of citizen complaints and arrests for sexual activity there.

Karsnia wrote that when the person occupying the stall beside his left, Craig entered it and blocked the door with his rolling suitcase.

“My experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall,” the officer said in his report.

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The senator then tapped his right foot, “a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct,” Karsnia wrote, and Craig ran his left hand several times underneath the partition dividing the stalls.

“The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area,” the officer’s report said.

When the police interviewed him later, the senator said that “he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom” and that was why his foot may have touched the officer’s, the report said.

Craig also told police that he had reached down to the floor to pick up a piece of paper, the officer wrote.

“It should be noted that there was not a piece of paper on the bathroom floor, nor did Craig pick up a piece of paper,” Karsnia wrote.

“During the interview, Craig either disagreed with me or ‘didn’t recall’ the events as they happened.”

After Craig ran his hand underneath the partition wall three times, Karsnia held his police identification down by the floor so the senator could see it, the report said.

“With my left hand near the floor, I pointed towards the exit. Craig responded, ‘No!’

“I again pointed towards the exit. Craig exited the stall with his roller bags without flushing the toilet,” Karsnia wrote.

The senator initially resisted the officer’s request to go to the police operations center, he said, but finally did. There, he was read his Miranda rights, interviewed, photographed, fingerprinted and released, the report said.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call first reported the arrest Monday. Watch a reporter discuss how news of the arrest broke »

In a statement released Monday evening, Craig denied any inappropriate conduct and said he regrets his guilty plea, which he entered without having an attorney present.

“At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct,” he said. “I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously.”

Craig paid a $500 fine when he entered his guilty plea in Hennepin County Municipal Court in Bloomington, Minnesota, according to state criminal records.

He resigned Monday night as a Senate liaison for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Romney’s son Josh canceled a trip to Idaho on Tuesday.

Craig, Idaho’s senior senator, is married with three grown children and nine grandchildren. A former rancher, he was first elected to the Senate in 1990 after serving a decade in the House of Representatives. His seat is up for re-election in 2008.

Last fall, Craig’s office publicly denied assertions by Internet blogger Mike Rogers that the senator is gay. Craig’s office dismissed speculation about the senator’s sexuality as “completely ridiculous.”

In 1982, Craig denied rumors that he was under investigation as part of a federal probe into allegations that lawmakers on Capitol Hill had sexual relationships with congressional pages, saying the “false allegations” made him “mad as hell.”

He was never implicated in that investigation, which led to ethics charges against two other congressmen.

In recent years, Craig’s voting record has earned him top ratings from social conservative groups such as the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council.

He has supported a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, telling his colleagues that it was “important for us to stand up now and protect traditional marriage, which is under attack by a few unelected judges and litigious activists.”

In 1996, Craig also voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition to same-sex marriages and prevents states from being forced to recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples legally performed in other states.

Craig also has opposed expanding the federal hate crimes law to cover offenses motivated by anti-gay bias and, in 1996, voted against a bill that would have outlawed employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, which failed by a single vote in the Senate. E-mail to a friend

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