Sen. Larry Craig has opened a new round in his legal battle stemming from his airport restroom arrest, appealing a judge’s refusal to let him to withdraw his guilty plea to disorderly conduct.
Craig’s appeal was filed Monday at the Minnesota Court of Appeals, less than two weeks after Hennepin County District Court Judge Charles Porter refused to overturn the plea.
The four-page filing did not detail the basis for the appeal, noting only that Craig was appealing Porter’s Oct. 4 order. The documents were dated with Friday’s date but were received and stamped by the Appeals Court on Monday.
“From the outset, Senator Craig has maintained that he is innocent of any illegal conduct at the Minneapolis airport,” Craig’s lead attorney, Billy Martin, said in a statement. “Like every other citizen, Senator Craig has the constitutional right to make every effort to clear his name.”
Craig, a Republican from Idaho, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in August after he was accused of soliciting sex in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in June.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which owns and operates the airport, said the guilty plea reflected Craig’s conduct in the public restroom.
“The facts in the case speak for themselves, and we are confident the senator’s guilty plea will stand,” spokesman Patrick Hogan said in a statement.
The appeals court must find there’s been an “abuse of discretion” by the trial judge before overturning a ruling — in other words, that some aspect of the ruling was decided improperly.
It would most likely be well into 2008 before the Court of Appeals rules on the case. The process by which both sides prepare their legal briefs alone usually stretches to more than 100 days, and the Court of Appeals faces a heavy caseload.
Craig’s Senate term ends at the end of 2008.
Senate Republicans have made it clear they wish Craig would leave office and let them forget the episode that has fueled jokes on late-night television for weeks.