Larry Craig was Entrapped: the case for Officer Karsnia as a blackmailer

With so many people focusing on the political aspects of Senator’s Craig’s arrest (including the outrageously hypocritical calls for Craig to resign, when no such calls were made for Senator Vitter, who outright admitted to sleeping with prostitutes) as well as the “is he or isn’t” debate over his homosexuality, something really important has been left in the dust.

Officer Karsnia should also be facing scrutiny, because the facts of the case could also support the idea that he essentially blackmailed Craig into pleading without any evidence of a crime that would have held up in court.

I do not sympathize with Craig’s politics. I do not respect his endorsement of creationism and attempt to legislate it into the school system. If he is in fact “on the down low,” then he is a hypocrite, especially as one of the architects of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. His use of his Senatorial business card, apparently to seek special treatment, is also pretty smarmy.

Irrelevant. None of that changes the fact that the police report fails to document any real, prosecutable crime as far as I can tell.

The closest the report gets is Craig’s alleged “peeping,” but even that has a plausible explanation in that the officer had been occupying the stall for more than ten minutes and Craig could well have been waiting and wondering what was taking so long. The officer claims that not all the stalls were occupied when he entered, but that could have changed in ten minutes: Craig asserts they were filled, and the officer has no way to contradict him. There is more than enough reasonable doubt here as to whether the officers account of seeing a “blue eye” is really a credible way to establish that Craig was actually looking into the stall, let alone with the requisite intent.

More importantly, even if Craig really was looking for homosexual sex (which is not itself illegal: only if money or lewd conduct in a public place is involved, which is what the officer has tasked with stopping), the officer stopped the encounter long before any clear propositions had been made, or actions taken. Why? Why not let things proceed and get more definitive evidence of intent? Let me suggest the possibility that Karsnia stopped early because all he needed was something embarrassing, rather than something definitively criminal.

Officer Karsnia’s actual case was one which any competent lawyer could get laughed out of court in minutes. So instead, he gave Craig the option to plead, pay a fine, and “not have to say anything,” immediately followed up by a threat to embarrass Craig if he did not comply by testifying about what happened in open court. All of this is on the interrogation tape. Karsnia says explicitly that doesn’t want to have to “embarrass” Craig, and then repeats the words “embarrassing” over and over throughout the interrogation.

Obviously, there is a difference of opinion about the encounter. I’m not saying that the case I’ve outlined against Karsnia is conclusive. But the possibility that Craig, even if gay, wasn’t actually doing or even thinking about doing anything illegal at this particular time is still reasonable. And there are clearly grounds here to at least consider the possibility that Karsnia was essentially running a prosecutorial blackmail scam here in order to extract fines and meet arrest quotas, all regardless of whether his victims were guilty or not. All he needed was to threaten public embarrassment, and then offer a lesser charge as an out.

Worse, this potential scam might even be systematic. Karsnia implies on the tape that he does this regularly, extracting pleas, fines and then sending people on their way. I assume that at least some of these men engaged in conduct more clearly criminal. But at this point, it’s worth at least considering whether innocent men have been entrapped in this way.

Update: Craig’s bid to rescind his guilty plea provides even more context to my take on things. Yes he signed a bunch of statements about being really and truly guilty, but if he really basically felt blackmailed, how does that change anything? What choice did he have?

6 Responses to Larry Craig was Entrapped: the case for Officer Karsnia as a blackmailer

  1. Sen. Craig’s Arrest: Was there Enough Evidence? (Updated)

    Yesterday, I focused on the hypocrisy of those compassionately conservative politicians who’ve turned on Sen. Larry Craig over his bathroom blunder, despite their having rallied round family-values-poser Sen. David Vitter when his apparent affinity fo…

  2. cureholder says:

    By far the best comment I’ve read on the legal aspect of the story. Any defense lawyer worth her JD would win this case, and it was clear that the cops were interested in a conviction rather than actual truth of the matter.

  3. John says:

    He didn’t plead until two months later. I doubt Karsnia’s words were still ringing in his ears.

  4. Bad says:

    Oh, I think hearing it once and then sweating it out for two months is pretty effective.

  5. [...] Post: Senator Craig’s arrest was illegitimate A fair number of people scoffed at my article defending Larry Craig and alleging that the Officer who arrested him used blackmail, rather than policework, to elicit [...]

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