David Plotz: I understand why they want to stop a bathroom from becoming a den of blowjobs, but this seems pathetic. Also—there is little deterrent effect in doing this generally. It is an airport, so by definition it caters to people in transit, who aren't going to know that it has become a police target.He also stared through the crack into the stall.
John Dickerson: Seems to me you should have to go a bit beyond tapping your toes.
Jack Shafer: He pleaded guilty to lewd conduct.
Plotz: Jack, for a libertarian such as yourself to say that a guilty plea is the last word is crazy.... He is guilty—but of a fake crime. The fact of the guilty plea does not somehow end discussion. He pleaded guilty because he was scared and embarrassed about the public revelation. The problem—my libertarian friend—is that the government has put on its books a law that serves very little public purpose, and has given the police free rein to enforce it with heavy hands (and tapping feet). You should be objecting to the excessive power of the state being harnessed to create and enforce laws that serve so little purpose.Plotz raises some good points, but he's missing the peeping aspect of the crime. You can see that "peeping" was one of the crimes charged. That is clearly defined and a proper offense. The other offense is charged was "disorderly conduct":
Whoever does any of the following in a public or private place, including on a school bus, knowing, or having reasonable grounds to know that it will, or will tend to, alarm, anger or disturb others or provoke an assault or breach of the peace, is guilty of disorderly conduct, which is a misdemeanor:...Maybe there are some problems here. Did he have "reasonable grounds to know" that what he was doing would "alarm, anger or disturb" the police officer? I think only the initial peeping was a problem. A person who was not interested in sex should object to the first peep. It seems Craig made a series of subtle gestures and the officer let him go on. That would cause a reasonable person to think that he wasn't upsetting anyone but that his advances were wanted.
Engages in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct or in offensive, obscene, or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others.
Dale Carpenter says:
Disorderly conduct is a notoriously nebulous crime, allowing police wide discretion in making arrests and charges for conduct or speech that is little more than bothersome to police or to others....But how can you disregard the peeping charge? Here's the statute:
At most, Craig was implicitly inviting another adult to engage in some kind of sexual behavior in a public place. I'm not a Minnesota criminal lawyer, but I don't think asking a stranger for sex in a public place, while vulgar and rude under many circumstances, would by itself be a crime under state law. At any rate, Craig wasn't charged with that.
What really seems to have happened is that the airport police had received complaints about sexual activity and were acting over-zealously to deter it, regardless of the niceties of state criminal law. Many gay men throughout our history have felt the sting of these public decency campaigns, have been arrested for alleged sex crimes, and have pleaded guilty at unusually high rates in order to avoid the embarrassment and other consequences of being outed. When newspapers print their names, as they often do, the consequences can be devastating. Like them, Craig probably wanted to avoid publicity and pleaded guilty to "disorderly conduct" in a futile effort to save his reputation and his job. Whatever we think of Craig's views on gay rights, or of the cosmic justice in this particular Senator being ensnared in these particular circumstances, it's difficult to see how he's a criminal.
(c) A person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor who:Isn't this statute the basis for the strategy of having the police officer to wait inside the stall? And why isn't this an acceptable police practice to deal with the problem of a public bathroom that is used for sexual activity?
(1) surreptitiously gazes, stares, or peeps in the window or other aperture of a sleeping room in a hotel, as defined in section 327.70, subdivision 3, a tanning booth, or other place where a reasonable person would have an expectation of privacy and has exposed or is likely to expose their intimate parts, as defined in section 609.341, subdivision 5, or the clothing covering the immediate area of the intimate parts; and
(2) does so with intent to intrude upon or interfere with the privacy of the occupant.
Captain Ed notes that Craig only pled guilty to the disorderly conduct charge. But I have to suspect that he decided to plead guilty to disorderly conduct to resolve the matter and that if he hadn't agreed to that, he would have faced the peeping charge. Captain Ed sees a way to defend against that charge: Craig was three feet away from the door and perhaps the police officer looked at him first. But he didn't choose to fight the charges. I'm not an expert on criminal law, and I would like to hear more discussion of how a good lawyer would have resolved the case for him. Isn't what he chose to do the most sensible path? And if the man is competent to be a Senator, shouldn't we assume that he looked at his options and chose what was in his best interests?
Whether Craig is gay or not is irrelevant, but I should note that Craig has made a point of telling the world he's not gay.
ADDED: I said above: "I have to suspect that he decided to plead guilty to disorderly conduct to resolve the matter and that if he hadn't agreed to that, he would have faced the peeping charge." Beldar agrees and amplifies:
Sen. Craig was almost certainly given an accommodation here by the prosecution and the court in being allowed to plead guilty to the crime that, of the two charged, has by far less social stigma attached to a conviction. Yes, disorderly conduct is a broad and vague charge — one that doesn't much seem to fit the facts alleged. But it's entirely possible that it was charged in the first place as an obvious, attractive basis for compromise, i.e., a charge with at least some factual correspondence to what happened, and upon which a more attractive plea could therefore be negotiated (especially for someone with no criminal record or other indications of dangerousness)....I think that last paragraph is too broadly stated, but in this case, Craig needs to find a better way to deal with his predicament.
[T]his plea, like countless others every day, aptly reflect[s] the litigants' well-informed judgments as to their respective risks and benefits from going to trial....
That said: Once Sen. Craig voluntarily pleaded guilty, he became guilty of disorderly conduct, conclusively and irrebuttably, under the Rule of Law as it speaks for our society. Whether he mighta, could, shoulda won if he'd fought all the way through is irrelevant, and it's unproductive to even speculate about. He has deliberately forfeited his right to even hint — ever, to anyone, for any purpose — that he was "really not guilty" of disorderly conduct in that airport men's room. That argument insults the listener (us) and only further degrades the maker (him); it is the argument of a scoundrel who thinks he's arguing to fools.
By the say, Senator McCain has called on Craig to resign.