Politics & Government

Senate career over, Craig drops appeal in bathroom sex case

WASHINGTON — With his career in the U.S. Senate finished, Larry Craig has decided to abandon his effort to overturn his 2007 guilty plea to charges connected with a sex sting in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

One of Craig's Minnesota lawyers, Tom Kelly, said that Craig, a former Republican senator from Idaho, decided a further appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court would be "a futile exercise."

"We've concluded that the Supreme Court would not accept this for review," Kelly told the Associated Press.

Craig's Washington lawyer, Billy Martin, and his spokesman, Judy Smith, didn't return phone calls or e-mails requesting comment. Kelly's office in Minnesota referred all phone calls to Martin and Smith.

The decision wasn't a surprise. In December, Craig told reporters at a Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce meeting that he was considering dropping the appeal.

At the time, he said he was "moving on" and had formed a consulting company and also would work with a group in Washington on land and energy issues. A search of Idaho business records shows that Craig established Craig and Associates LLC, a consulting business, in November.

Craig had his final legal setback on Dec. 9, when the Minnesota Court of Appeals rebuffed his latest appeal in which he'd argued that his guilty plea wasn't valid because he'd entered it by mail rather than by appearing in court in person.

Craig was arrested an airport men's room on June 11, 2007, after police claimed he'd solicited an undercover officer for sex. Airport police, spurred by complaints of sex in that particular men's room, were running a sting operation.

The officer said Craig entered a bathroom stall next to one the officer was occupying and began tapping his feet and waving his hand under the stall divider — motions, the officer said, that signaled Craig was soliciting sex.

Craig was charged with interference with privacy and disorderly conduct. The state dropped the privacy charge, and Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after talking to a prosecutor over the phone and mailing in a $575 fine.

He never consulted a lawyer and didn't disclose the arrest until August, when a Capitol Hill publication, Roll Call, reported it.

Craig said that his arrest was due in part to anxiety over an interview with the Idaho Statesman for a possible article about his sex life. He said that because of the stress, he "overreacted and made a poor decision" by pleading guilty. The Statesman later published statements from four men who claimed they'd had sexual encounters with Craig.

In the days following the news of his arrest, Craig said that he'd resign. He later changed his mind and began trying to retract his plea in the Minnesota court system. Craig eventually chose not to run for re-election — he'd been a senator since 1990 — and he officially retired last week.

It's not clear whether the cost of continuing the appeal was a consideration for Craig. He spent $407,658 of the money in his campaign account on lawyers until the Senate Ethics Committee chastised him in a public letter of admonishment.

The ethics committee said his "improper conduct" reflected poorly on the U.S. Senate and faulted him for not getting permission to use leftover campaign money to pay his legal fees. He later set up a legal defense fund, "The Fund For Justice." An October filing showed it had raised $4,645.

Craig, who earned $169,300 in his final year in office, also could've been paying for some of the expense of the appeal from his own money. Pete Sepp, a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, estimated that Craig would earn a $100,000 annual government pension for the rest of his life.

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