Senator: I Shouldn't Have Pled Guilty

(AP) "In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty," says Idaho Senator Larry Craig of a June 11th arrest by an undercover officer after an incident in a bathroom at the Minneapolis airport.

In a statement issued by his office, the Idaho Republican says he was not involved in any inappropriate conduct.

"At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter," said Craig. "I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously."

A Hennepin County, Minnesota, court docket shows that Craig entered a guilty plea on Aug. 8th to a charge of misdemeanor disorderly conduct in connection with the June arrest, with the court dismissing a charge of gross misdemeanor interference to privacy.

The court docket says Craig paid $575 in fines and fees. He was put on unsupervised probation for a year. A sentence of 10 days in the county workhouse was stayed.

Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, which first reported the case, said on its Web site Monday that Craig was arrested by a plainclothes officer investigating complaints of lewd conduct in a men's restroom at the airport.

Craig, 62, is married and in his third term in the Senate. He is up for re-election next year. He was a member of the House for 10 years before winning election to the Senate in 1990.

He has been one of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's top Senate supporters, serving as a Senate liaison for the campaign since February. As word spread of Craig's guilty plea, a Romney campaign spokesman, Matt Rhoades, said in a statement: "Senator Craig has stepped down from his role with the campaign. He did not want to be a distraction and we accept his decision."

Sidney Smith, a Craig aide in Boise, said Monday afternoon that the senator is "in the (Boise) area" but was declining to give interviews.

Minneapolis airport police, reached after business hours on Monday, declined to provide a copy of the arrest report.

Roll Call, citing the report, said Sgt. Dave Karsnia made the arrest after an encounter in which he was seated in a stall next to a stall occupied by Craig. Karsnia described Craig tapping his foot, which Karsnia said he "recognized as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct."

Roll Call quoted the Aug. 8 police report as saying that Craig had handed the arresting officer a business card that identified him as a member of the Senate.

"What do you think about that?" Craig is alleged to have said, according to the report.

Last fall, Craig called allegations from a gay rights activist that he's had homosexual relationships "completely ridiculous."

Mike Rogers, who bills himself as a gay activist blogger, published the allegations on his Web site, www.blogactive.com, in October 2006.

Craig hasn't said if he plans to run for a fourth term in 2008. An announcement is expected this fall. His spokesman, Smith, was uncertain if Craig's guilty plea would affect his re-election plans.

"It's too early to talk about anything about that," Smith told The Associated Press.

J. Kirk Sullivan, chairman of the Idaho Republican Party, declined to comment on the situation, saying he was unaware of the nature of the charge against Craig.

© MMVII The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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