Larry Craig Case: Not Too Appealing

September 12, 2008

Joe Kimball has a nice step-back-from-the sensationalism piece on MinnPost about the Larry Craig legal fiasco.  Craig, as any Minnesotan with at least one functioning eye or ear knows all too well, was the Idaho senator who got ensnared in a sex-solicitation sting in a men’s room at MSP airport.

Larry Craig

Larry Craig

Craig, you will recall, mailed it in.  His guilty plea, that is.  When he tried to get the trial court to throw out the plea, the media circus at Hennepin County’s satellite courthouse across from Southdale was eclipsed only by the parade of Curious Georges and Georgettes who have made the bathroom next to Royal Zeno’s shoeshine a Minnesota tourist attraction.

This week, Craig’s case came before the Minnesota Court of Appeals.  Joe Kimball was there, along with about 20 other reporters, including one from the New York Times, which published a picture from inside the courtroom of Judge Natalie Hudson asking a question.  (Think cameras aren’t allowed in Minnesota courtrooms?  They are, particularly in appeals courts.)

As Kimball wrote, the media circus had left town, for the simple reason that Craig was not here.  Only non-salacious legal questions were before the court, such as whether a trial judge had to have reviewed the written guilty plea before it was accepted and whether it contained enough information to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  Boring stuff, when compared with the facts of the case involving wide stances and the claim that Craig had peered into the cop’s restroom stall with such intensity that the officer could see that he had blue eyes.

Even more boring is a fact that has not gotten play in the crush of media reports about this case.  The guilty plea was as much about contract law as criminal law.  We sign stuff all the time — sometimes with a pen when we refinance our houses, sometimes electronically when we click those ubiquitous “I have read and accept the legal terms” boxes.  Why should pleading guilty to this sort of crime be any different?

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