- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2007

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota judge today rejected Sen. Larry Craig’s bid to withdraw his guilty plea in an airport sex sting, a major setback in Craig’s effort to clear his name and hang onto his Senate seat.

“Because the defendant’s plea was accurate, voluntary and intelligent, and because the conviction is supported by the evidence … the Defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea is denied,” Hennepin County Judge Charles Porter wrote.

Craig can appeal Porter’s ruling, but it wasn’t immediately clear if he would.

When the charges first surfaced he said he would resign by Sept. 30. But then he decided to attempt to reopen his legal case, and said he would stay at least until he found out whether he could withdraw his plea.

Craig has maintained his innocence and said that his actions in the airport bathroom were misconstrued by the police officer who arrested him.

Craig was arrested June 11 by an airport police officer in a bathroom sex sting. The officer said Craig had looked into his bathroom stall, and tapped his foot and moved his hand under the divider in a way that suggested he was looking for a sexual partner.

Craig denied that in an interview with the officer after his arrest. But he pleaded guilty on Aug. 8. He later said he “panicked” in entering his plea, believing that it would keep the matter quiet. The Idaho Statesman had been holding back an article on rumors about his sexuality, and Craig said in court papers that he feared the arrest would trigger the story.

Porter said that was not a good reason to withdraw the plea. Any pressure Craig was under “was entirely perceived by the defendant and was not a result of any action by the police, the prosecutor, or the court,” he said.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported Craig’s arrest and guilty plea on Aug. 27. Fellow Republican senators soon called on Craig to resign, and conservative groups, which had given him near-perfect approval ratings, abandoned him quickly. Craig had been elected to Congress from Idaho in 1980 and was in his third term in the Senate.

Within days Craig said he would resign by Sept. 30. He then changed his mind, saying he would stay in office until the legal case was finished.

Prosecutor Christopher Renz had accused Craig of “politicking and game playing” with the legal system, and argued that Craig was urged to hire an attorney and had plenty of time to think about his plea.

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