Sen. Craig and the Right to Counsel

According to Roll Call, Sen. Craig’s insistence that he would not have pleaded guilty if he had consulted an attorney is a dubious defense. Craig had days before his guilty plea in June and during that period, documents indicate that he asked for a contact at the airport for his lawyer to call. It is not clear that his lawyer actually made that call, but clearly Craig had the time and inclination to do so.

Ironically, I believe Craig could have benefitted from counsel. The account of the arresting officer is based on highly interpretive notions of common signals used by gay men seeking sex in restrooms, such as touching the shoe of the man in the next stall. Craig is not accused of directly soliciting act. The charging officer said that he seemed to be looking into his stall, hovering around his door, and indicating interest. The only physical invasion appears to be looking through the crack of the door, putting his hand under the wall separating the stalls, and touching the officer’s shoe.

I am perfectly willing to believe that these were common signals, but I am astonished that they can alone constitute the basis for a criminal charge. An attorney may have proposed fighting the charges and arguing, as he does now, that these were misinterpreted acts. It is likely that Craig did not want such a trial with the inevitable endless speculation and jokes on cable programs. The plea, therefore, may have been the lesser of painful options. Nevertheless, the charge itself is based on an uncomfortable degree of interpretation. I expect many men will be keeping their feet tightly together at airports in the future.