Alexa

Idaho senator's future in question after arrest on sex-related charge

Idaho senator's future in question after arrest on sex-related charge

A Republican senator who pleaded guilty to a morals charge is the latest senator from President George W. Bush's party facing ethical and legal troubles.
Sen. Larry Craig has represented the conservative Western state of Idaho in Congress for more than a quarter-century and has voted against homosexual marriage and special protections to gay and lesbian crime victims.
On Monday, he admitted he pleaded guilty three weeks ago to a disorderly conduct charge and had a charge of "gross misdemeanor interference to privacy" dropped after a male undercover policeman testified Craig had made what the officer interpreted as sexual advances in a public toilet.
At least two other Republican senators are having trouble with law authorities.
_Sen. Ted Stevens, formerly one of the most powerful senators as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, is under scrutiny for his relationship with a contractor who helped oversee a renovation project that more than doubled the size of the senator's home.
_Sen. David Vitter acknowledged that his telephone number appeared in records of a Washington-area business that prosecutors have said was a front for prostitution.
Polls said Republican ethical lapses were a major reason that voters transferred power last year in the Senate and the House of Representatives to the Democrats.
Craig, the Idaho senator, is up for re-election in 2008 but has not said whether he will run.
A spokesman, Sidney Smith, was uncertain late Monday if Craig's guilty plea would affect his re-election plans. "It's too early to talk about anything about that," Smith said.
A watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed an complaint Tuesday asking the Senate ethics committee to investigate whether Craig violated Senate rules by engaging in disorderly conduct.
A political science professor in Idaho said Craig's political future was in jeopardy. And a spokesman for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, Hannah August, said Craig's guilty plea "has given Americans another reason not to vote Republican" next year.
The married Craig, 62, has faced rumors about his sexuality since the 1980s, but allegations that he has engaged in gay sex have never been substantiated. Craig has denied the assertions, which he calls ridiculous.
According to a court docket, Craig pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge on Aug. 8, with the court dismissing a charge of gross misdemeanor interference to privacy.
The court docket said Craig paid $575 (euro421) in fines and fees and was put on unsupervised probation for a year. A sentence of 10 days in the county workhouse was stayed.
According to the prosecutor's complaint, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, airport police Sgt. Dave Karsnia, who was investigating allegations of sexual conduct in airport restrooms, went into a stall shortly after noon on June 11 and closed the door.
Minutes later, the officer saw Craig gazing into his stall through the crack between the stall door and the frame, fidgeted with his fingers and returned to gazing through the stall for about another two minutes.
After a man in the adjacent stall flushed the toilet and left, Craig entered it and put his roller bag against the front of the stall door, "which Sgt. Karsnia's experience has indicated is used to attempt to conceal sexual conduct by blocking the view from the front of the stall," said the complaint, which was dated June 25.
The complaint said Craig then tapped his right foot several times and moved it closer to Karsnia's stall and then moved it into the area of the officer's stall to where it touched Karsnia's foot. Karsnia recognized that "as a signal often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct," the complaint said.
Craig then passed his left hand under the stall divider into Karsnia's stall with his palms up and guided it along the divider toward the front of the stall three times, the complaint said.
The officer then showed his police identification under the divider and pointed toward the exit "at which time the defendant exclaimed `No!,'" the complaint said.
Already Craig has stepped down from a prominent role with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign.
"He did not want to be a distraction and we accept his decision," said Matt Rhoades, a Romney campaign spokesman.
Craig said in a statement issued by his office Monday that he was not involved in any inappropriate conduct.
"At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions," he said. "I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously."
Craig was a member of the House for 10 years before winning election to the Senate in 1990. He was re-elected in 1996 and 2002.