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Guilty plea in restroom arrest

A GOP senator denies any lewd intent but admits disorderly conduct. He resigns his Romney campaign post.

August 28, 2007|Richard Simon | Times Staff Writer

washington -- In the latest personal conduct controversy to roil Capitol Hill, Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) has pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after being arrested by an officer investigating lewd-conduct complaints in a men's restroom.

On Monday, Craig denied engaging in any inappropriate behavior and said he regretted his plea.

"At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions," he said in a statement. "I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct."

The senator's statement came after the incident was first reported Monday by the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, which obtained the arrest report on the June 11 incident at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Craig pleaded guilty Aug. 8. He was ordered to pay $575 in fines and fees and given one year's probation on the misdemeanor charge.

The 62-year-old Craig, who is married, has been a leading congressional voice on issues of importance to the West. The senator, who touts his belief in "limited federal government, free enterprise, private property and individual liberty and responsibility," won election to the Senate in 1990 after serving a decade in the House. He is up for reelection next year.

As word of Craig's arrest spread throughout Idaho and the rest of the country, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign announced that Craig was stepping down as co-chairman of Romney's campaign in Idaho.

"He did not want to be a distraction, and we accept his decision," said Matt Rhoades, a Romney campaign spokesman.

The report of the Minneapolis incident comes after a fellow Republican senator, David Vitter of Louisiana, apologized in July for a "very serious sin in my past" after reports that his phone number showed up among the records of an alleged Washington madam.

According to the Roll Call report, Craig handed the plainclothes sergeant who arrested him a business card that identified him as a senator and said, "What do you think about that?"

Craig was detained for about 45 minutes and photographed and fingerprinted before his release, the newspaper reported.

The arrest was made after Craig entered a men's room stall next to one occupied by the undercover officer, Roll Call reported.

Craig placed a bag against the front of the stall door. "My experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall," Roll Call reported the officer, Sgt. Dave Karsnia, as writing in the report.

The officer also reported Craig tapping his foot, which the officer called "a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct."

In his statement, 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."

Craig's colleagues were silent on the incident.

But the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force issued a statement calling attention to Craig's support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and his opposition to legislation that would expand the federal hate crime law to cover violent acts based on a victim's sex, sexual orientation, sexual identity or disability.

John J. Pitney Jr., a professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College, said, "The incident is bad enough, but the contrast with his stand on family values is appalling. In the culture of Washington, political hypocrisy is just as hurtful as anything that happened in a lavatory."

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richard.simon@latimes.com

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