Under pressure from a newspaper investigation, Sen. Larry Craig "panicked" and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport men's room, according to court papers filed Monday. The plea constitutes a "manifest injustice" and should be set aside, his lawyers say. The 50-page filing in Hennepin County District Court said Craig feared his arrest in the airport sting would prompt the Idaho Statesman to publish a story examining his sexual orientation. The Republican, who has represented Idaho in the U.S. Senate for 17 years, "felt compelled to grasp the lifeline offered to him by the police officer, namely that if he were to submit to an interview and plead guilty, then none of the officer's allegations would be made public," the filing said.
Craig pleaded guilty by mail to disorderly conduct in August following his arrest in June. A police report alleged that Craig had solicited sex from police Sgt. Dave Karsnia, which the senator has denied.
After Craig's arrest was made public, the Idaho Statesman published its five-month investigation into previous allegations of homosexual behavior. Craig said he is not gay.
Statesman editor and vice president Vicki Gowler defended the newspaper's investigation. "From the start, it was important to us to do a thorough and responsible investigation, outside of deadline pressures. We did that," Gowler said.