Airport sting arrests echo details of Craig case

Air travelers
Travelers at an airport.
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

(AP) - A foot-tapping ritual was a common thread in many of the 41 arrests in the airport bathroom sex sting that snared Sen. Larry Craig.

An undercover officer would take a seat in a stall. Soon another man would sit in the stall next door, and start tapping his foot, perhaps moving it closer to the officer's. The officer would then move his foot up and down slowly. The suspect might then extend his hand under the divider between the stalls, sometimes repeatedly.

Sen. Larry Craig
Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, speaks with reporters at the White House after a meeting with President Bush in January 2007.

That would be enough to get the man busted.

Airport police reports obtained by The Associated Press gave strikingly similar accounts of the events that led to the 41 arrests officers made for alleged lewd conduct in public restrooms in the main terminal of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

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Craig insisted that his actions were misconstrued, according to the police report on his June 11 arrest. But the Idaho Republican quietly pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct earlier this month.

After word of his arrest finally surfaced this week, Craig insisted he had done nothing wrong, that he regretted pleading guilty and indicated he might try to withdraw his plea. He also insisted he is not gay.

In several of the police reports, officers wrote that they knew from their training and work experience that the foot-tapping was a signal used by people looking for sex. The reports said the department had received complaints from the public and made numerous arrests.

In several of the police reports, officers wrote that they knew from their training and work experience that the foot-tapping was a signal used by people looking for sex.

Craig's alleged conduct closely followed the pattern described in several of the arrests. In the report on his arrest, Sgt. Dave Karsnia wrote that he went into a stall shortly after noon on June 11 and closed the door. Minutes later, the officer said he saw Craig gazing into his stall through the crack between the door and the frame.

After a man in the adjacent stall left, Craig entered it and put his roller bag against the front of the stall door, "which Sgt. Karsnia's experience has indicated is used to attempt to conceal sexual conduct by blocking the view from the front of the stall," said the complaint.

The complaint said Craig then tapped his right foot several times and moved it closer to Karsnia's stall and then moved it to where it touched Karsnia's foot. Karsnia recognized that "as a signal often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct," the complaint said.

Craig then passed his left hand under the stall divider into Karsnia's stall with his palm up and guided it along the divider toward the front of the stall three times, the complaint said.

Others caught up in the sting, according to the police reports, included airport and airline employees, an account executive with Revlon, an IT consultant for Ernst & Young, a 3M executive and a Lands End employee.

In an incident June 25, Karsnia arrested three men at once.

He wrote in his report that he was waiting for two suspects to come out of their stalls to be arrested. Then a third suspect near urinals exposed his penis to the officer with a smile. One of the suspects, according to the report, was "known" around the airport for lewd acts in the restrooms.

Police lured a few of the suspects by other means, such as responding to posts on Internet sites by men looking to arrange a quick hookup as they passed through the airport.

Some of the 40 suspects were area residents; others were from out of town. Addresses ranged from ordinary local neighborhoods to Park Avenue in New York.

The airport is the headquarters hub for Northwest Airlines, and tens of thousands of passengers connect through it every day.

The charges ranged from misdemeanors such as loitering, disorderly conduct and indecent exposure; to gross misdemeanors such as interference with privacy. Some of the suspects denied to police that they were after sex, others admitted it. Most were cooperative with police.

One even told the arresting officer - Karsnia, the same officer who arrested Craig - "Thank you for being respectful sir."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)