WASHINGTON – Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, didn’t have to plead guilty to sex charges stemming from a men’s room encounter with an undercover cop in Minnesota.
All he had to do was hand the police officer a copy of the U.S. Constitution – the document the senator swore to uphold upon first taking office in Congress 27 years earlier.
Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution says no member of Congress can be arrested while traveling to or from official session except for treason, felony and breach of the peace
Craig was arrested just after 12 noon June 11. He cast a vote on a high-profile cloture motion on the Senate floor at 5:55 p.m. that same day.
This may be what a high-powered legal dream team hired by Craig is telling him now. Late yesterday, Craig’s staff hinted he may not honor his commitment to resign from the Senate effective Sept. 30.
The critical section of the Constitution states: “The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.”
Billy Martin, one of battery of high-priced lawyers for Craig, said the senator’s arrest in an undercover police operation at a Minneapolis airport men’s room “raises very serious constitutional questions.”
Martin, who represents Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in his dogfighting case, said Craig “has the right to pursue any and all legal remedies available as he begins the process of trying to clear his good name.”
Craig has also hired a crisis management team that includes Martin; communications adviser Judy Smith; Washington attorney Stan Brand, a former general counsel to the U.S. House, and Minneapolis attorney Tom Kelly.
Brand, who represented Major League Baseball in the congressional investigation into steroid use, will handle any Senate Ethics Committee investigation of Craig, while Kelly will assist the legal case in Minnesota.
Craig contended throughout the last week he did nothing wrong and said his only mistake was pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
Photos released by Metropolitan Airports Commission Police Department show Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, following arrest at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
However, Craig’s guilty plea did not come until August, nearly two months after the June 11 arrest in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. The plea Craig signed stipulated the following: “I understand that the court will not accept a plea of guilty from anyone who claims to be innocent.”
He was fined $500 with a surcharge of $75, and he was placed on probation for a year.
Craig has not publicly explained what he was doing in the Minnesota airport, but since he was clearly traveling back to Washington, any minor legal transgressions would seem to be null and void under Article 6.
Dan Whiting, a spokesman for Craig, said the senator was following his usual route from Idaho through Minneapolis to Washington for his weekly commute between Congress and his home state. Whiting said Craig was traveling alone, which was not unusual.
Whiting also said last night the senator had not ruled out reversing his plan to step down Sept. 30. After pressure from Republican Senate colleagues, Craig announced Saturday that it would be best for “the people of Idaho” if he resigned after the disclosure of his guilty plea to a crime associated with soliciting sex in a public men’s room.
“As he stated on Saturday, Senator Craig intends to resign on September 30th,” Whiting said in a statement. “However, he is fighting these charges, and should he be cleared before then, he may, and I emphasize may, not resign.”
Craig has also been encouraged by Sen. Arlen Spector, R-Pa., the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee and a former prosecutor, to contest the charges.
Craig said last week his actions in the bathroom were misinterpreted by an undercover police officer as a sexual advance. He has also insisted he is not “gay.” But, according to his plea, he never hired an attorney before admitting guilt with no equivocation.
Craig waited two months to enter the plea because of the standard time frame for the Minnesota courts to process a charge, but did not consult a lawyer before taking that step, Whiting said.
Craig agreed to the plea, even though he believed he had done nothing wrong, because “he was hoping it would go away,” Whiting explained.
Whiting was unable to release any information about the legal arguments now being developed on the senator’s behalf, referring WND to Smith, who said she could not comment either.
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