Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What Craig's Case Says About The Legal System

Let me start this post by telling the reader precisely where I'm coming from regarding the Larry Craig imbroglio. I think he is guilty of soliciting sex in a public restroom for the following reasons:

I can not fathom how someones foot would innocently cross the imaginary wall extending below the stall divider to the floor, to rub against the foot of someone sitting in the next stall.

I do not find Craig's explanation for the hand gestures believable. Who would pick up a piece of toilet paper from the floor of a public restroom. The notion that a U.S. Senator was policing that stall with his bare hands is just silly. Therefore I do believe the officers assertion that Craig ran his hand along the bottom of the stall divider, and in conjunction with the foot rub, that was an unmistakable signal as to Craig's intent.

Purely from personal experience, I find it difficult to imagine the conjunction of horrible happenstance it would take for me to perform those two actions, neither of which I can picture doing alone, both in the same trip to the restroom leading to my wrongful detention for soliciting in that restroom.

My wife asked me what was wrong with what Craig had actually done. Supposing he is guilty of soliciting, if there is no cash transaction, what is actually wrong with hitting on someone in a public setting. It may have been my partisan nature coming to the fore but I immediately exclaimed that children use that restroom. Imagine if you had to take your child to the restroom and happened across that sort of activity. Also I noted that the police had received complaints about activities in that restroom which initiated the sting in the first place.

But there is a rising tide of opinion, which I find persuasive, that what Craig actually did here ought not be illegal. One must presume that had the man sitting in the stall next to Craig not been an officer, and Craig started hitting on him from the next stall over, that the man could have simply declined the advance and carried on. Maybe the real legal issue should be cases where the encounter was actually consummated in the public restroom, not just initiated there.

One blogger persuasively argues that men hitting on women in public is actually commonplace and pervasive... to the point that many women must consider what they wear, what time of day they leave their homes and various other seemingly mundane considerations which men never have to think about, simply because of the never ending nature of the sexual advances. If our women folk have to deal with this on a daily basis, what makes the occasional encounter with the amorous gay suitor so difficult to deal with for straight men? Good question actually.

Which makes me reconsider the question asked me by my wife. What did Craig do wrong here? I concede the answer from a strictly legal point of view may indeed be nothing what so ever. From the point of view of Craig's Idaho right wing nutso base, I'm certain he did a lot wrong in their moral point of view. But I'm honestly not sure that a guy hitting on a guy in public is wrong... assuming they go to a private place to do whatever it is they want to do.

Beyond all this though is what Craig's guilty plea says about our legal system if he is to be believed. With news breaking that Craig is reconsidering his resignation from the Senate, as well as hiring a high priced lawyer with an eye to withdrawing the guilty plea, what are we to make of the fact that he pled guilty to the charges against him.

Craig argues that he just wanted to sweep this all under the rug so he pled guilty to make it go away. The question I would ask the reader is how many people do you think might plead for reasons beyond being guilty. Craig is claiming innocence despite pleading guilty. In effect he is claiming a false confession... by now saying what he once affirmed is actually not true. For those who support him consider the likelihood that Craig is the only person in the nation who finds himself in this circumstance. The chances that he is the ONLY one in this position are nil actually.

Craig is a sitting U.S. Senator for goodness sake. He passes laws for a living! If a sitting lawmaker finds himself in this very awkward circumstance (and he is to be believed regarding his innocence) then the rest of us lowly people should feel very much concerned about the possibility of being railroaded by the legal system. How many innocents now languish in jail after being given no good out but a guilty plea to a lesser charge. How many people wrongfully admit guilt when being interrogated for hours on end by hostile police officers?

I'm not so much interested in what Craig will have to say about gay rights if he manages to hold his job going forward. He already claims that it was all a big mistake and, if anything, he may attempt to prove his heteroness by further bashing all that might be construed as promoting gay causes. What I wonder about with this entire affair is if we will ever see a bill sponsored by Senator Craig and pushed by his supporters which is meant to make it easier for innocent people to prove their innocence, after they have been ramrodded through the judicial system.

And finally, let me close by going back to the partisanship which makes me what I am. To be honest here, I might not think that Craig should be held to a legal accounting for his actions in that bathroom, but be that as it may, I honestly hope and pray he decides to make a big legal fuss out of this affair. I can't think of anything more damaging to Republican prospects than having some long legal proceeding as Craig attempts to withdraw his plea going on for months on end just as we get into the 08 campaign season. From strictly a political point of view, I can't help but think that Republican leadership are pulling strings right now trying to make sure the Craig stays retired.

I think it is funny that Craig essentially said:

I'm guilty.
No, wait. I didn't mean it. I wasn't guilty.

I'll resign.
No, wait. I didn't mean it. Maybe I won't resign.
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