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August 28, 2007

Learning about criminal justice realities from elected officials

Lately we've been learning a lot about sentencing and corrections realities from sports stars and celebrities.  But, earlier this summer, some elected officials were the teachers: President Bush explained why Scooter Libby's guideline sentence was excessive and Senators assailed a federal prosecutor for excessive prosecution of Border Agents Compean and Ramos.

Now, as detailed in this CNN story, new lessons are coming from Senator Larry Craig.  Craig is now saying that he "overreacted and made a poor decision" when deciding to plead guilty to disorderly conduct after his June arrest following an incident in a Minneapolis airport bathroom.  Apparently, Craig is now, in this statement, asserting his innocence:

The senator said he "chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in the hope of making it go away.  I did not seek any counsel, either from an attorney, staff, friends, or family.  That was a mistake, and I deeply regret it."  On Tuesday, Craig announced that he has retained an attorney.

If we credit Craig's claims, we have a great example of how and why a defendant might plead guilty even when innocent, as well as an example of the importance of getting quality legal advice as soon as possible.

August 28, 2007 at 09:35 PM | Permalink


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In case you haven't read enough, Peter Smith has a thoughtful post on the subject at Concurring Opinions:I am not a libertarian, and I am not particularly troubled by criminalizing sex in public places, or even by criminalizing the soliciting [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 4, 2007 7:51:58 PM


If we credit Craig's claims, we have a great example of how and why a defendant might plead guilty even when innocent, as well as an example of the importance getting quality legal advice as soon as possible.

That's an enormous "if."

Posted by: | Aug 28, 2007 9:45:45 PM

No matter what, Craig's "wide stance" defense is risible.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 28, 2007 10:59:40 PM

It's another "great example" of how creepy members of Congress are.

This won't alter the Republican "do as I say, not as I do," stance on criminal law (and, frankly, basic human decency) one iota. The party (as seen here by Federalist) has already drop-kicked their former law-and-order hero and hopes he'll resign today and go back to fiddling with men in Idaho restrooms.

Posted by: Dweedle | Aug 29, 2007 10:46:19 AM

So, what Federalist, are you arguing that everyone that pleads guilty gets to do "baksies" if they might have a "defense" that is "good enough" for you?

(I put "defense" in quotes, because his argument isn't a defense, but rather an argument that one (or perhaps all) of the elements was not present. Self-defense, justification, mistake of law would be defenses.)

Or, should we just take for granted that someone that pleads guilty, while not incarcerated (so there is no real incentive to plead guilty to get out of jail), who understands the nature of the charges, and has access to counsel actually is pleading guilty without any pressure?

I mean, this guy DID plead guilty to not only a crime, but a crime that interferes with the orderly conduct of transportation in the United States. I don't want sex perverts in the the bathrooms of any airports. Shouldn't they have to register as sex offenders? If there is anyone that should be on the "no fly" list it should be this guy. He has done terrible damage to air travel in the United States. Right?

This does raise some other interesting issues, such as whether civilian courts should conduct a wide-ranging "providence" inquiry as to whether all the elements are present and there are no defense. Of course, if judges were doing this, it would expose the likes of Craig that "just want to get it over with" to even more scrutiny. But, since he wasn't in jail, and he could have hired a lawyer, I don't have any sympathy for him.

(Finally, as a practical matter, based on the complaint, if he did retain a lawyer, the lawyer probably could have had it dismissed in about 30 seconds, because the complaint was just about as weak and vague as it gets. No confession. No verbal communications. Whatever.)

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 29, 2007 10:49:47 AM

S.cotus, I am really not arguing anything. This is a political case now, not a legal one. And yeah Dweedle, we Republicans drop guys like this like hot potatoes.

I do feel sorry for his wife and children.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 29, 2007 11:20:54 AM

federalist: I do feel sorry for his wife and children.

Why, because he's been lying to his wife about being gay for the last 30 years? Or becuase she knew all along, and now her secret shame is public?

Look, people might have good intellectual reasons to be a Republican, and firm emotional and biological reasons to be gay. But if you're both at the same time, you're a goddamn idiot just begging to be blackmailed and under no account should you be allowed to hold the reins of power.

And if this is all just a big misunderstanding? Oh, I feel so sorry for him. Perhaps he should resign, just sort of temporarily, until it's all sorted out. And find Jesus, or go into rehab. Or both. Whatever hypocrites are doing these days to pretend they're sorry once they get caught.

Posted by: tekel | Aug 29, 2007 11:39:52 AM

tekel: But according to most of Craig's former pals there is no "rehab" for being a sexual prevert... you have to tag 'em, track 'em, and corral 'em. What I want to know is why did Minnesota let a dangerous sex criminal roam free?

Posted by: Dweedle | Aug 29, 2007 11:49:08 AM

To me, there might be a good reason to be a Republican: because it might lead to a political appointment in a GOP administration. Otherwise, party membership is silly and really some game for non-lawyers.

Other than better fashion sense, there are no "reasons" to be gay. People just "are." There are gay people that want political appointments, and I don't think that they are hypocrites for being Republicans. They are just doing their job. Now, if they take it one step further and start condemning people for being gay and all that stupid crap, then they are being hypocritical, but this isn't necessarily the case.

Anyway, saying that one is "sorry" after being caught really has limited effect. Perhaps if one could prove that they were sorry BEFORE they were caught, it might matter. But this isn't the case with Vick. So, whatever.

As to his wife: if she knew that this was sort of elaborate game in which, in exchange for "pretending" to be his wife and "pretending" to hate gay people, she received money, security, support, and a home, I don't feel that sorry for her.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 29, 2007 11:55:20 AM

Oh, I should add, that if you are a Republican, and don’t get a political appointment, you are a clown and yes, everyone is laughing at you.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 29, 2007 1:58:30 PM

Was Craig at all an "anti-gay" warrior, S.cotus? Being against gay marriage and against laws prohibiting discrimination against gays does not make one anti-gay. Moreover, gays could have many other reasons for voting GOP, namely lower taxes etc.

Dweedle, your comments are twisted. Soliciting consensual homosexual sex in a public bathroom is, of course, beneath the dignity of a Senator, but lumping Craig in with dangerous criminals is simply wrong. Yeah, Craig has dishonored himself (more, IMHO, with the explanations about "wide stances" etc. instead of simply being honest), but calling him a "pervert" and a "sex criminal" is beyond the pale.

Moreover, you caricaturize us "law and order" types. Most of us, at least from a criminal law standpoint, don't give a hoot about consensual sex between people able to give consent, no matter what form it takes. What we care about are sexual predators who bring untolled misery upon this country. And many of us realize that overkill with respect to tagging them, etc. is a waste of resources that detracts from dealing with truly dangerous sex offenders. People in public bathrooms soliciting consensual sex is a nuisance. The vast majority of people understand that and do not want to see someone convicted of doing such a thing stignatized as a sexual predator.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 29, 2007 2:29:09 PM

There is a whole lot of lively discussion at TalkLeft, with lawyers posting how they could have beat the rap.

What is interesting and more on topic here, is that he could not freely and without consequence exercise his right to trial because the trial by media would find him guilty anyway. A 10 day suspended sentence was minor and insignificant punishment in comparison, which is why he accepted the plea. This, I think, is a justifiable reason many countries do not allow trial by media.

Posted by: George | Aug 29, 2007 2:31:53 PM

Federalist, if the vast majority are the reason laws get passed, then the vast majority disagrees with you.

See Manhunt for how easy it is to become a registered sex offender. Also note how the police lied about the complaints. Surprise, surprise.

Posted by: George | Aug 29, 2007 3:36:39 PM

(I put "defense" in quotes, because his argument isn't a defense, but rather an argument that one (or perhaps all) of the elements was not present. Self-defense, justification, mistake of law would be defenses.)

You're kidding, right?

Posted by: rothmatisseko | Aug 29, 2007 7:09:57 PM

Federalist: I think one of the things I love most about Republicans, besides their eagerness to bend the rules for themselves (see Mr. Bush's reasons for Mr. Libby's clemency, explaining away Larry Craig's hypocrisy, etc.), is their very perceptive sense of sarcasm.

OH! And I especially [heart] their willingness to round up all the preverts and brand them on the forehead.

And isn't it good luck for the Republicans that there are so many giant preverts in their ranks? It gives them a sizable and handy population to test out their new penal theories.

Posted by: Dweedle | Aug 30, 2007 11:53:51 AM

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