Monday, August 27, 2007

Senatorial Bathroom Power Stance

At the risk of turning this into a potty-themed blog, I just can't let this story about US Senator Larry Craig's (R-Idaho) arrest for lewd behavior in an airport restroom go without comment:

Craig stated "that he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom and that his foot may have touched mine," the report states. Craig also told the arresting officer that he reached down with his right hand to pick up a piece of paper that was on the floor.

I've been in a number of public restroom stalls in my 38 years, but I can't ever recall being in such dire gastric distress that I would need to take a stance while seated so wide that my foot was at any risk of touching the foot of the gentleman in the next stall. All I can say is, if you need to take a stance that wide, you'd better be in the handicapped stall, because you're going to need to grip those handlebars for leverage.

What really disturbs me is that you have to touch feet to signal you want to do something naughty. Frankly, I think foot-on-foot intimate contact is just wrong, and ought to be illegal pretty much anywhere. If feet weren't meant to be gross, they'd not have evolved to be waaaaaaay down there at the opposite end of our bodies from all our sense organs. They're stuck on the end of the legs for a reason -- they're nasty!

On a more serious note, I have a hard time understanding what was illegal about this episode. He didn't actually solicit any sort of illegal contact, he just exhibited some behaviors typical of people who would. And though as I noted, he lied about why he did those things -- the grip and the "I was just picking up a piece of paper" -- that's all after the fact. It seems like you'd have to prove he intended to solicit illegal behavior, and I don't see how you could do that in this case.

I understand the desire to keep lewd acts out of public restrooms, but honestly, this seems to be a pretty outrageous law. By comparison, you can't arrest a guy just for driving around slowly in an area known for prostitution. You have to see them actually solicit the illegal act -- just acting suspicious isn't (and shouldn't) be enough.


Anonymous said...

Okay, I'll admit I'm responding to a crappy situation (couldn't resist), but this guy ought to think -- is it better to be outed as a gay man then for the whole wide world to know what gymnastics he has to go through to simply go to the bathroom... -- yuk. And double gag. But even if this is the "number two" predicament in the headlines, there's always the "I'm insane/on medication/depressed/stressed out defense" from Lisa Nowak. It's a crazy, crappy world. Except Nowak had diapers. -- Denise

JimmyMac said...

"It seems like you'd have to prove he intended to solicit illegal behavior, and I don't see how you could do that in this case."
Jeff, I like the way you think, and so do the founders of our country. You can be on my jury anytime!

Jeff Hebert said...

You can be on my jury anytime!

Well I mean, look, obviously he was trying to get an anonymous stranger to have sex with him. Which is even grosser than playing footsie. I don't doubt that at all. I just don't see how this is any different than, say, hitting on a woman in a night club hoping she'll agree to come home with you. Unless the actual law is "No solicitation of free sex between two consenting adults in a public restroom", I still don't see what's illegal about this even given that yes, he really was trying to get the guy in the next stall to get into some hankey-pankey.

If I were on your jury, I'd have to have a very clear understanding of what the law actually says is or isn't illegal to do. It can't just be that two consenting adults were trying to signal they wanted to get it on -- if that were illegal they'd have to shut down pretty much every place where the public gathers!

If the law is against actually engaging in lewd behavior in an airport restroom, then I'd vote to acquit him because all he actually did was wiggle his feet and wave his hand and indicate he wanted to engage in lewd behavior. But he never actually did so.

If the law is that you can't even ask someone in a public restroom if they want to have sex -- not even necessarily sex right there, but just sex in general -- then he's guilty but it's a really, really, really horrible law.

It's not like he was violating prostitution laws, either, because he wasn't offering money. It was free!

I feel badly that he's in such a miserable place in his life that he has to resort to this kind of thing in violation of his marriage vows. Not to mention basic hygiene. I find the whole episode more sad than anything else.

On another note, as other bloggers have said, I am impressed with the professionalism of the airport police, who didn't let this leak out for three months. And I think it was a reporter who finally sussed it out of public records.

The cops are just doing their job here, I don't blame them for having to enforce a stupid law. I do credit them for keeping it private, that's hard to do. Especially when Craig apparently tried to bully them initially with his credentials as a US Senator. It must have been REAL tempting to call someone at the paper after that.

Jimmy Mac said...

I agree 100%.
I surely don't fault the police for trying to stop what must have been going on in that bathroom on a fairly regular basis. I have read very little about this, but I know that cops don't just wake up in the morning and say, "hey, let's stake out this bathroom for improper behavior." Decisions like this come after there has been enough information and investigation to know that they won't be wasting their time.
However, from a legal point of view, it sounds like the stepped in a little too soon on this guy and have very little actual evidence. If he goes to trial, he will only be tried for what he actually did, not for what they think he was going to do. If they would have waited a little longer, they probably would have had plenty of evidence to convict, but who do you think would volunteer to let a suspect go far enough to gather "hard" evidence in a case like this (sorry, I couldn't help myself)?
Anyway, nice legal analysis, Jeff.

Jeff Hebert said...

Thanks Jimmy. I should point out that all of this is fairly moot, as Craig pled guilty at the time, presumably in the desperate hope that it would stay quieter that way. There's no good way to defend yourself from the publicity something like this would drum up.