December 09, 2008

Larry Craig: Another Appeal Denied

I noted yesterday that the appeal by former Florida state representative Bob Allen had been denied. While Allen's pretty well known in some circles, few cases of conservative politicians soliciting sex in men's bathrooms had garnered as much interest as that of Idaho Senator Larry Craig (R). As you may recall, Craig entered a guilty plea after his infamous "wide stance" solicitation in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and then said that he'd resign only to later not only fail to step down but to file an appeal seeking to retract his guilty plea.

A decision has just come down in the last couple of hours and, like Bob Allen, Larry Craig's appeal has also been denied. The full decision by the Minnesota Court of Appeals has been released, but the gist of it is that Craig's guilty plea will stand because he lacks any legal basis on which to retract it. Or, if you prefer your legalese undiluted:

To be valid, a guilty plea must be "accurate, voluntary and intelligent." State v. Ecker, 524 N.W.2d 712, 716 (Minn. 1994). For a plea to be accurate, it must be supported by a proper factual basis. Id. Appellant argues that the plea was not accurate because it lacked a full record of supporting facts.

Appellant did not appear in person when his plea was filed, but a guilty plea is not invalid merely because it is entered in writing. See Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.03, subd. 2...

But, because appellant did not appear, the written plea petition was the only account given to the district court of appellant's version of the offense. The relevant paragraph of the petition states:

"I am pleading guilty to the charge of Disorderly Conduct as alleged because on June 11, 2007, within the property or jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Hennepin County, specifically in the restroom of the North Star Crossing in the Lindbergh Terminal, I did the following: Engaged in conduct which I knew or should have known tended to arouse alarm or resentment or [sic] others, which conduct was physical (versus verbal) in nature."

...Appellant argues that because the paragraph lacks a description of the alleged conduct it fails to provide an adequate factual basis.

Appellant's argument is unsupported by the record. A verbatim record was required to be made of the August 8, 2007 proceeding at which appellant's petition to plead guilty was filed and he was sentenced. See Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 6(A) (requiring verbatim record of sentencing proceedings). A defendant is responsible for providing a record adequate for appellate review, including a transcript if necessary. See State v. Anderson, 351 N.W.2d 1, 2 (Minn. 1984) (holding claim of trial error could not be reviewed without transcript). Appellant did not order a transcript of the August 8, 2007 proceeding...


And it goes on from there, as legalese does, to set out why Craig's appeal simply doesn't hold water.

Larry Craig is still guilty by his own admission. More importantly than the legal offense he committed, though, is his hypocrisy in the whole matter, one that he maintains to this day. Craig, like Bob Allen, could remedy this by simply coming out of the closet and explaining his errors while maintaining that gay men can legitimately hold conservative political views and ideas that don't extend to curtailing the rights of other gay men in order to bolster their standing amongst the homophobic segments of society. He could point out that he served as a Senator in ways that otherwise represented his constituency and that his homosexuality, like all homosexuality, is at most a coincidence that, absent social stigmatization, has zero bearing on the fitness of an individual to serve in office, vote, serve in the military, or otherwise enjoy the rights and fulfill the responsibilities incumbent upon all of us as members of American society, no matter whom we might prefer to twiddle our dangly bits now and again.

Will he continue in his hypocrisy, though? I'd bet on it.

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