Saturday, September 1, 2007

Did Larry Craig Commit a Crime?

Like a lot of left-of-center folks, I must confess to taking a certain delight in a "family values" Republican--Larry Craig--getting arrested for allegedly seeking homosexual sex in a Minnesota restroom.

But if you read the accounts of what took place in the restroom, you have to ask yourself this question: Did Craig actually commit a crime, even though he confessed to it?

Ann Woolner asks that question in an interesting article for Bloomberg News Service. Woolner cites the disorderly conduct law under which Craig was arrested. Had he entered a not-guilty plea and fought it in court, I think he would have stood a very good chance of being acquitted.

Of course, Craig evidently was concerned about protecting his political career, so he chose to plead guilty and hope the news never came out.

I do think Craig is probably gay, and his statements of several years ago about President Clinton show him Craig to be a truly creepy hypocrite. But did Craig actually commit a crime in this instance? I doubt it.

Disorderly conduct is one of those catch-all laws that can be used for a variety of offenses. In Alabama, Crimson Tide football player Simeon Castille recently was arrested for disorderly conduct for being loud and boisterous and blocking traffic outside a Tuscaloosa bar. Just this morning, we receive news that five UAB men's basketball players were arrested for disorderly conduct, evidently for getting into a loud argument at a bar.

I have read articles in local newspapers about people being arrested for solicitation types of offenses and being charged with disorderly conduct. It certainly appears that, had he gone to court, Craig could have shown reasonable doubt about whether he actually committed this crime.

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