The Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled against Idaho Sen. Larry Craig in connection with a Minneapolis airport bathroom sex case.
The three-judge panel's ruling is the latest legal action in the ongoing saga of Sen. Craig and his visit to the Minneapolis airport restroom in June of 2007.
Craig was arrested June 11, 2007, by an undercover police officer who was conducting a sting operation against men cruising for gay sex at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
An undercover officer saw Craig peering into another bathroom stall for two minutes, and running his hand under the stall divider, in what the officer said was an attempt to solicit sex.
The senator quietly pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor and paid a fine, but changed his mind after word of his arrest became public.
He has spent the last year and half trying to get Minnesota courts to throw out his guilty plea, and the panel is the latest to decline.
Craig's attorney Billy Martin had argued Craig's actions weren't criminal, and therefore his guilty plea was invalid.
In October 2007, Hennepin County Judge Charles Porter said Craig's guilty plea should stand because it was accurate, voluntary, intelligent and supported by the evidence.
“I remain steadfast in my belief that nothing criminal or improper occurred at the Minneapolis airport. I maintain my innocence.”Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho
Craig had argued that peering through a crack in a bathroom stall and using hand and foot gestures was not criminal. Therefore, any guilty plea was invalid because a person cannot plead guilty to an action that is not a crime.
But Porter found Craig intentionally entered the undercover police officer's stall with his eyes, hands and feet, proving that Craig violated the officer's right to privacy in an offensive way.
The three-judge panel of the state court of appeals upheld Porter's decision, saying Craig failed to show that the district court judge abused his discretion by denying his petition to withdraw his plea.
The opinion also said Craig failed to show that the state's disorderly conduct law was unconstitutionally overbroad.
Craig said he was considering an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
"I am extremely disapppointed by the action of the Minnesota Court of Appeals," Craig said in a statement. "I disagree with their conclusion and remain steadfast in my belief that nothing criminal or improper occurred at the Minneapolis airport. I maintain my innocence and currently my attorneys and I are reviewing the decision and looking into the possibility of appealing."
Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which runs the airport, said the appellate decision again confirms that Craig knew what he was doing when he entered his plea. He said the MAC hopes it's the end of the case.
After the story of his arrest broke in August 2007, Craig publicly insisted he was innocent and that he was not gay. He said he would resign from the Senate, but he changed his mind about that, too, and vowed to fight to clear his name.
Craig, a Republican, lost several GOP leadership positions in the wake of the scandal, and the Senate Ethics Committee said in February that Craig had brought discredit to the Senate.
The committee members said they believed he was guilty, and that his attempt to withdraw his plea was just an effort to evade the legal consequences of his own actions.
He did not seek re-election in last month's election for the seat he has held for 18 years. He will be replaced in January by Idaho Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, a Republican.