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Friday, September 28, 2007

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

I've looked at a whole bunch of press accounts of Wednesday afternoon's hearing on Larry Craig's motion to withdraw his guilty plea. This report of the hearing, from the WaPo, is about as detailed as any I've seen:

A Minnesota judge reacted skeptically Wednesday to Sen. Larry E. Craig's bid to withdraw his guilty plea to disorderly conduct in a Minneapolis airport restroom, asking why the Idaho Republican should be allowed to renew his defense.

Hennepin County District Judge Charles A. Porter said he would not rule on Craig's request until next week, and Craig softened his pledge to resign from the Senate by Sunday if his case was not resolved, announcing that he would remain in office "for now."


The judge asked only one procedural question of the prosecutors who after the hearing expressed confidence. "We feel like we have a very strong case," said Patrick Hogan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which oversees the airport police. "I think the facts are clear."

Oh, so it's just "one procedural question," is it? No drama there. Probably had to do with some picky little rule or something. There can't be any need to explain that in any more detail, can there?

This leaves me banging my head on my desktop. What if the exchange was this?

THE COURT: Mr. Renz, I just have one question for you. When you drafted the written motion for Sen. Craig to enter his guilty plea to the disorderly conduct charge for him to review, sign, and mail back, you obviously knew that it would be presented to the Court by mail and without a written in-person appearance at which the Court could conduct a colloquy on the record to confirm the details of the plea. And you also knew that at least up to that point, no counsel had entered an appearance for Sen. Craig, and he appeared to be trying to represent himself pro se. So did the State do anything to ensure that this plea tracked or complied with the following provisions of the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure: Rule 15.02(3), as incorporated for mail-in pleas by Rule 15.03; Appendices B or C to Rule 15; or Form 11?

MR. RENZ: No, Your Honor.

Now, a question like that would induce narcolepsy in most reporters. But if that was the "one procedural question," that might strongly suggest that there was a whole 'nuther ball game, sports fans, that the reporters didn't even realize was being played. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote:

My revised estimation is that Sen. Craig's odds of prevailing on his motion are somewhere below 5%. The only kind of judge who could grant this motion would be the kind who elevates procedural form over all substance, who cares nothing about whether procedural violations have even arguably prejudiced the defendant, and who is also remarkably unoffended by lawyers and litigants who lack fundamental candor.

I still think that's right. But since, in my judgment, Craig's only real chance is based on procedural arguments, it would be kind of nice to know what "one procedural question" Judge Porter asked. If it were as tightly focused on what the prosecution did wrong as the hypothetical question I just drafted, the answer to that one question alone might indicate that Judge Porter puts a pretty high premium on complying strictly with all of the procedural niceties, especially when it comes to something as fundamental as the exercise or waiver of a defendant's right to counsel.

So: Has anyone seen a press account of the hearing that quotes or even closely paraphrases what the "one procedural question" actually was?

There apparently was no live testimony; if anyone objected to the other side's affidavit evidence as hearsay, that hasn't been reported. Apparently neither side has my own gambler's instinct — although if either side did have good grounds to want to stick close to the written briefs, affidavits, and exhibits already on file, it would have been the prosecution.

Craig's team desperately needed to throw the ball all the way to the end zone, in my opinion, to have even a chance of getting to play in over-time. Instead, lead counsel Billy Martin apparently ran an off-tackle left, which Judge Porter stuffed for a one-yard loss (the argument that nothing Craig did could have constituted disorderly conduct); tossed to Minneapolis co-counsel Thomas Kelly on an end-around, which was stopped for a six-yard loss (the unbriefed argument that Craig's written plea needed to have a judge's signature on it); fired an incomplete pass at his own feet (leaving Craig in Washington instead of having him attend the hearing in person); and then punted as the final seconds ticked off the clock (Craig's statement to the press that pending a ruling, he intends to stay in office).

Unless the "one procedural question" turned into a prosecution fumble that was returned for a TD without anyone noticing, then, Judge Porter's likely to blow the whistle overruling Craig's motion, and consequently ending his career, early next week.


Previous posts on the Craig matter, oldest to most recent:

  1. The answer to the "Why was this a crime?" crowd on the Craig matter
  2. Craig "reconsidering" resignation; and his chance to withdraw his guilty plea is probably better than Beldar first presumed
  3. Has Larry Craig hired the part-time prosecutor who filed the complaint against him?
  4. Craig swears that on the date of his arrest, he "decided to seek a guilty plea to whatever charge would be lodged" against him
  5. 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"
  6. ACLU files silly brief in support of Craig's plea withdrawal
  7. Prosecution moves to strike ACLU amicus brief supporting Craig's motion to withdraw guilty plea
  8. Of pleas and piñatas: No surprises in prosecution's response to Craig's motion to withdraw guilty plea
  9. Craig plans to ditch hearing, but Renz should object to his affidavit as hearsay and force Craig to take the stand

Posted by Beldar at 06:10 AM | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Just "one procedural question" for prosecutor Renz as he opposed Sen. Craig's motion to withdraw his guilty plea and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» 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 10:57:34 PM

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

Tracked on Oct 4, 2007 3:15:13 PM


(1) Carol Herman made the following comment | Sep 28, 2007 11:02:11 AM | Permalink

Hmm? I came here looking for your opinion, and was very pleased to find it!

As you said, the "procedural question" isn't available for review.

But what if the question to Renz had to do with "typical pleas?" What if the correct "in the ballpark" review; would show this to be standard procedure?

IF Judge Porter gives Craig another bite of the apple? Then, what are pleas worth? As a general thing, where, here, you have a LAW MAKER, screaming he didn't have "no lawyer." (Which might not even be true!)

Once caught, Craig's been playing this with all the attention he can give himself on center court.

I'd guess the sad spectacle gets made worse by the inability of the GOP senators to don a pair of pants! One pansy is bigger than the other!

And, yes. It does hurt good citizens. Especially since Larry Craig's "information to the court," includes his "fears" of the local newspapaer; who had a habit of printing the rumors that he was gay.

As to the "silence," I'd like to remind you, Beldar, that Laud Humphreys did a "study" on this secret. It's always done in silence! IF a man speaks at all, the other zip and run.

So, the silence is part of the process.

Craig admitted to "disorderly conduct." Which is a wide net, designed to catch perverts; especially in public toilets. Where WORDS cross no one's lips.

If you think it's amazing you can do this with "sign language," then you haven't seen sign language done for the deaf! Crosses language barriers in more ways than one.

I got the tip for the book, TEA ROOM TRADE, from reading an article written on this subject by Christopher Hitchens.

And, yes. It's just another example on how I search and use the Net, for news. And, I bet I'm not alone.

People could also remember that Larry Craig went "against type," when he voted for the shamnesty bill. Proving he's probably been blackmailed.

Which is WHY this issue has more points to consider, than just about anything else.

Craig isn't doing a single favor for any senator. ANY.

While some think they're presidential timber. Will DC ever become a decent place to go to work?

(2) Carol Herman made the following comment | Sep 28, 2007 2:26:36 PM | Permalink

When Judge Potter didn't come out with a decision right away, I was reminded about how people pass (or fail) their driving tests in New York CIty.

Because? The Driving Inspector won't tell you the results of your test. You've got to wait for the results to show up in the mail.

I thought then, that this was the safest way to approach the public at large. And, also to avoid the business of bribes; which could be sting operations. And, need to give the Inspector "time to get out of the car."

The other thing? This Opinion will be read with a FINE TOOTH COMB. So, sure. The judge would look to put some distance between the "hearing" and the results; that will come after Larry Craig was already forced to rescind his "leaving the senate card by September 30th."

I'm sure Potter expects lots more "action" once his Decision comes down the pike.

But, ya know what?

It's possible, BELDAR, that in hearing "hoof beats," you're assuming they belong to a zebra.

In medical schools, this is common. Students are forced to "game" what the professors want. And, sometimes? They just want TYPICAL straight answers. So the choice of a "zebra" is wrong.

What if Judge Potter just set it up for the "USUAL BUSINESS PRACTICE" to prevail?

In other words? There are rules that are set that work for "plea bargains."

Just as in traffic court, the judge leaves it up to you to decide it pays to "pay the fine." Because you recognize that the officer who ticketed you has shown up for your court appearance?

Anyway, since you're betting on the Zebra. I'll bet on the horse.

The judge wanted Renz on the record for receiving a "mailed in plea bargain," as a routine matter; without all the dots dotting the landscape.

For the judge, Renz' answer has to fit the circumstances. Which still does not give Larry Craig the "pass" he craves.

Let alone that Judge Potter was once a marine. SO he's well versed in the behaviors of homosexuals, who do get into the military; and then do as much as they can in silence, without getting caught.

One of the "attractants" to this weird form of sexuality happens to exist around the parameters of "getting caught." And, then? Lying.

It's a two-fer for perverts.

So for my 2-cents, and with absolutely no law school experience, whatsoever; I'll opt for the Judge "accepting" Craig's guilty plea.

That would certainly complete the circle.

(3) vnjagvet made the following comment | Sep 28, 2007 8:25:56 PM | Permalink

Beldar -- what do you think about the Judge Kent situation?

(4) Beldar made the following comment | Sep 28, 2007 10:56:21 PM | Permalink

The bench of the Southern District of Texas, in all its various divisions, is broad and deep, and as a practitioner who appears before its judges regularly, I do my best to ensure that I'm well prepared and that I don't waste any of its judges' time; I try not to be a fool in federal court, and therefore hope I won't run afoul of the many federal judges who don't suffer fools gladly. It's a very fortunate thing that in my particular style of blogging, I don't ever have occasion to gossip about any one or more of those particular judges, since I potentially might do a profound disservice to my existing or potential clients, and/or to those judges, by engaging in such gossip as to any of them. I believe it's been several years since I had occasion to appear before Judge Kent in particular; I can't claim to know him well; and I certainly have no fault to find or bone to pick with him based on my minimal personal experience with him.

[UPDATE (Wed Oct 10 @ 2:10am): I reconsidered my intention not to blog about Judge Kent at all, and instead have blogged a lot.

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