« I can't wrestle myself to the ground as your advocate against me in our fee discussions | Main | Of Thompson and Clark and sports metaphors used in politics »

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Has Larry Craig hired the part-time prosecutor who filed the complaint against him?

[UPDATE (Tue Sep 11 @ 7:40pm): Since writing this post, I've confirmed to my own satisfaction that the answer to the question posed in the post's title is almost certainly: "No." See the updates at the bottom of this later post. — Beldar]


RenzThe prosecuting attorney who signed the complaint against Craig that was apparently filed on July 2, 2007, was one "Christopher P. Renz."

On August 28th, the AP reported: "[The] judge [who accepted the guilty plea], Gary Larson, and the prosecutor named on the criminal complaint, Christopher P. Renz, did not return phone messages left Tuesday." The Minneapolis Star-Tribune likewise reported on August 29th: "Because the case remains open, Larson's clerk said he couldn't comment. Christopher Renz, the prosecuting attorney, declined to comment." And also reported by the AP on August 29th:

The case was prosecuted by Christopher Renz, an Edina attorney in private practice who also prosecutes cases for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, and Craig was sentenced by Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson.

But Congressional Quarterly reported on August 29th: "Craig said he did not consult a lawyer before pleading guilty, but this week he hired a local expert: Chris Renz, a former prosecuting attorney for the Metropolitan Airports Commission in Minneapolis."

I've seen this same CQ story reprinted elsewhere on the internet, but no other reports to this same effect. Other, later press reports (for example, here and here) that were contemporaneous with Craig's announcement of his intent to resign didn't mention Renz in describing the members of Craig's legal team.

And then there's this today from the AP — the first part of which is consistent with my post from last night, but in the last part of which attorney Renz' name pops up again:

A defendant who wants to overturn a guilty plea has to demonstrate a "manifest injustice" under the state's Rules of Criminal Procedure, said Steve Simon, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who has run a clinic for defense lawyers for 30 years. That's a high hurdle, he said.

"Very few motions to withdraw pleas are brought," Simon said. "Of those that are brought, few are granted."

He added, however, that in Craig's case "there are some very serious problems with the validity of that plea" because of the possibility that Craig may not have specifically waived his right to an attorney.

The police officer's Miranda warning to Craig covers only the police interrogation — not the later court process. In his plea agreement Craig waived five specific rights, including the right to a trial, but not his right to an attorney. Hennepin County's standard plea petition includes a waiver of a right to an attorney but that wasn't used in Craig's case, Simon said.

A July 20 letter from prosecutor Christopher Renz to Craig laying out the proposed plea agreement made several references to an attorney. "Please review the document and to the extent that you wish, review the same with legal counsel," the letter said. The Metropolitan Airports Commission, which prosecuted the case, declined to make Renz available for comment on Wednesday.

I haven't seen this letter yet, but I'm looking for a link to it somewhere.

Ethically, it would be ... extraordinary, to say the least, for a former prosecutor, whether full- or part-time, to undertake the representation of a defendant whom he helped prosecute. I've got to think that CQ just got the name wrong, but I've emailed Mr. Renz and CQ to inquire.

The fact that Mr. Renz is only a part-time prosecutor, though, is a potentially interesting twist that potentially might shed light on questions regarding how the plea bargain was struck, how the motion to enter the guilty plea was prepared, and how the details of this particular case's progression might have compared to those of comparable cases handled directly by the Hennepin County Attorney's office.

Posted by Beldar at 09:50 PM in Law (2007), Politics (2007) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Has Larry Craig hired the part-time prosecutor who filed the complaint against him? and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Craig swears that on the date of his arrest, he "decided to seek a guilty plea to whatever charge would be lodged" against him from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Sep 10, 2007 9:17:06 PM

» In letter forwarding proposed plea, prosecutor Renz repeatedly reminded Craig of his right to counsel and warned that plea would result in "a conviction for Disorderly Conduct appearing on [his] criminal record" from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Sep 12, 2007 9:18:47 PM

» ACLU files silly brief in support of Craig's plea withdrawal from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Sep 17, 2007 11:04:04 PM

» Prosecution moves to strike ACLU amicus brief supporting Craig's motion to withdraw guilty plea from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Sep 21, 2007 6:53:51 PM

» Of pleas and piñatas: No surprises in prosecution's response to Craig's motion to withdraw guilty plea from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Sep 24, 2007 9:12:27 PM

» Craig plans to ditch hearing, but Renz should object to his affidavit as hearsay and force Craig to take the stand from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Sep 25, 2007 6:14:02 PM

» Just "one procedural question" for prosecutor Renz as he opposed Sen. Craig's motion to withdraw his guilty plea from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Sep 28, 2007 6:36:04 AM

» Is Craig's strategy "winning by losing," counting on colleagues and constituents to confuse "innocent until proven guilty" with "guilty (but pending further appeals)"? from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Oct 1, 2007 11:23:47 PM

» Minnesota trial court rejects Craig's motion to withdraw guilty plea from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Oct 4, 2007 3:35:46 PM


(1) DRJ made the following comment | Sep 6, 2007 7:29:27 AM | Permalink

This Just Can't Be. Unless it is, which would be extraordinary.

(2) Stephen made the following comment | Sep 6, 2007 8:30:14 AM | Permalink

Given this IS Minni-ho-ho, is Mr Renz a DFL [North Country-ese for Democrat] political operative as well? Lord knows, the longer this stays in the news, the better for the Dems. (After all, why else would Arlen Specter have suggested it?)

(3) El Jefe Maximo made the following comment | Sep 6, 2007 4:27:46 PM | Permalink

Holy Pilcrows Batman ! This is just too bizarre, even for the Senator Craig case. Can this really be true ? Are these people this nuts ?

(4) nk made the following comment | Sep 6, 2007 6:06:45 PM | Permalink

It really does not sound likely. It would be an offense for which disbarment would not be adequate.

(5) BritAm made the following comment | Sep 6, 2007 9:40:47 PM | Permalink

According to Opensecrets.org, there is a Christopher Renz of Minneapolis who gave $353 to "Americans Coming Together" in 2004.

(6) maynard made the following comment | Sep 7, 2007 9:58:25 AM | Permalink

Craig has a first rate lawyer in Minnesota, Tom Kelly
I think this info re Renz is a mistake

(7) Dan S made the following comment | Sep 7, 2007 10:20:30 AM | Permalink

But AP has all those LAYERS and LAYERS of fact checkers and editors, this can't POSSIBLY be a mistake!

Can it?

(8) cboldt made the following comment | Sep 7, 2007 11:43:20 AM | Permalink

If there's an error in reporting that makes the premise of Beldar's post inoperative, it is an error by CQ, not by AP.

And the part time prosecutor is described as being hired as "an expert," not as counsel.

That would still be "strange," and IMO, totally unethical on the part of BOTH Craig and the part-time prosecutor. But different from agreeing to be hired on as counsel.

(9) Carol Herman made the following comment | Sep 9, 2007 12:53:15 AM | Permalink

Well, if you saw Diane Sawyer's interview of 2 of Larry Craig's adopted kids; you would have seen strange stuff.

First off. Larry Craig doesn't have kids of his own. And, Suzanne's kids, came into the marriage with him when they were something like 15, 12 and 9.

The two youngest were reporting for "defense." And, it turns out both kids have had problems with the law. The youngest, Michael, is now 33. Married. Divorced. And, he's got a record for breaking the nose of a former girl friend. Oh. And, statutory rape. When he was 19. And, the chick was 16.

Shae, the daughter, had an outstanding warrant, for having gone into her ex-husband's living space, uninvited. Destroying personal property.

And, if that's not enough, the other "excuse" Craig is using, has something to do about "hand signals are only for the deaf."

Meanwhile, it's men who use bathroom facilities out in public. IF one man dared voice his disires, where he invited a straight guy to "play with his pecker," there's a good chance he'd be flipped up and tossed, head down, into a toilet bowl.

So, no surprises for me when the pick up is done in silence.

Oh. And, Craig's other complaint is that he didn't see the copper's penis.

Well? He wasn't charged with lewd behaviors; just disturbing the peace.

And, if he's gone, now, and hired the prosecutor whose charged him; HOW STUPID IS THAT?

Maybe, Larry Craig is just one ruckus after another?

Sort'a like Gary Condit's family.

(10) punslinger made the following comment | Sep 9, 2007 3:42:21 PM | Permalink

Some other blogs have mentioned the constitutional defense. This is where congress critters can't be arrested going to and from session unless for treason and suchlike.

This would seem a rather strong defense, seeing that Craig was in DC voting that very night.

(11) Beldar made the following comment | Sep 9, 2007 4:25:38 PM | Permalink

Punslinger, the "constitutional defense" looks good only if you're unaware of the way the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution. As I wrote in a comment on Patterico's:

Important though it be, the Constitution is not in all things self-executing and automatic. The constitutional privilege that Congressmen have against “arrest” going to and from sessions would constitute an affirmative defense that Craig would have to have pleaded. He didn’t; instead he pleaded guilty.

Even if he had pleaded it, it wouldn’t have mattered. In Gravel v. United States, 408 U.S. 606, 614-15 (1972) (citations omitted; and yes, it’s that Mike Gravel), the Supreme Court held:

History reveals, and prior cases so hold, that this part of the Clause exempts Members from arrest in civil cases only…. It is, therefore, sufficiently plain that the constitutional freedom from arrest does not exempt Members of Congress from the operation of the ordinary criminal laws, even though imprisonment may prevent or interfere with the performance of their duties as Members.

Best case for Sen. Craig, even if there weren't this caselaw, he could have gotten the arrest quashed, and possibly any statements made or evidence seized in connection with it (as fruits of a poisoned tree). It would not have prevented the State of Minnesota from re-charging him, though.

I also saw some MSM outlets talking about a typo in the plea agreement — "tended to arouse alarm or resentment or [sic, should be 'in'] others" as a possible ground for getting the plea withdrawn. That's just silly. I would withdraw from representing someone rather than sign my name to a pleading that made that argument, and its odds of succeeding are some tiny fraction of one thousandth of one percent.

The plea agreement's departure from the standard form and failure to comply with Rule 15.02 (as incorporated for mail-in pleas by 15.03) is the only very plausible basis I've seen suggested.

In a distant, distant second place is an argument I read yesterday on Jeralyn Merritt's blog, to the effect that, as part of establishing a factual basis for the plea, the plea agreement should have included a factual recital specifying who (besides the undercover officer) might have been present in the bathroom to be "offended." I haven't read the California case described in the news report that Jeralyn linked, but it's an awful decision if it indeed says what it's reported to say. In statutes like Minnesota's (or Texas'), disorderly conduct, when based on offensive conduct, relies on an objective standard of what would offend a hypothetical reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances — it doesn't depend on any particular person being subjectively offended.

The argument that these sting operations are unconstitutional on the basis that they discriminate against gays is likewise a non-starter. The State of Minnesota will happily charge and convict and punish heterosexuals for doing exactly what Craig did. It will happily charge and convict and punish women, either hetero- or homosexual, who do exactly what Craig did but in a woman's public restroom. This is not, in other words, a "status" crime. It's a conduct crime. And one's sexual orientation may become incidentally relevant as part of demonstrating circumstantially that the defendant's actions were intentional (as opposed to accidental). But being gay is not an element of the crimes with which Craig was charged.

By the way, I've still received no reply to my emails to the CQ reporter and Mr. Renz. I don't want to read any admission into Mr. Renz' silence, but it seems to me like he could properly refute any false suggestion that he'd been hired by Craig without disclosing any confidences or otherwise misspeaking about his actions as past-time prosecutor.

(12) punslinger made the following comment | Sep 11, 2007 8:32:40 PM | Permalink


Thanks Beldar. And welcome back. I missed you when you were gone.

The comments to this entry are closed.