The senator issued a statement that said, AIn hindsight, I should have pled not guilty. He repeated this personal belief at a Idaho news conference when he stated, AIn June, I overreacted and made a poor decision. He continued, AI chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away. I did nothing wrong, and I regret the decision to plead guilty.
According to a Hennepin County, Minneapolis court docket, Craig was sentenced and paid $575 in fines and fees and was put on unsupervised probation for one year. A sentence of 10 days in the county workhouse was stayed. The prosecutors’s complaint obtained by the Associated Press, reports that airport police Sgt. Dave Karsnia, was investigating allegations of sexual conduct in airport restrooms.
The Sgt. entered the men’s restroom shortly after noon, went into a stall and closed the door. Minutes later the Sgt. saw Craig gazing into his stall through the crack. Craig then enters the stall adjacent to the Sgt and proceeded to tap his right foot several times in addition to other acts, all of which based on the officer’s experience and training, he recognized to be signals. These signals, according to Sgt. Karsnia, are often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct.
The senator asserts numerous times during press conferences that he was wrong in pleading guilty. In fact, he appeared both defiant and apologetic at the same time. He was not represented by an attorney when he entered a plea of guilty and this fact will be crucially reviewed if he does proceed on withdrawing his guilty plea.
THE CHALLENGES OF WITHDRAWING A GUILTY PLEA
In compliance with the holding of Boykin v. Alabama (1969) 395 U.S.238, when a guilty or nolo contendere plea (which is treated the same as a guilty plea) is entered, the record must show that the defendant was aware or made aware of, voluntarily waived, his or her constitutional rights to:
(1) trial by jury; (2) confrontation of witnesses; (3) privilege against self-incrimination; and (4) right to counsel, if unrepresented.
The defendant must file the appropriate motion in a timely manner. However, it is not rare that a postjudgment motion to change a plea is not timely made. Consequently, the court may still consider the request but the defendant has the burden of proof to explain and justify the delay. Due diligence is required because substantial prejudice to the government may result if the case proceeds to trial after a long period of time had lapsed. The defendant must show good cause for the withdrawal of a guilty plea by clear and convincing evidence.
Good cause is shown when a defendant demonstrates that a guilty plea was entered a result of mistake, ignorance, inadvertence, fraud, duress, or any other factor overcoming the exercise of the defendant’s free judgment.
Some examples of grounds constituting good cause
(1) Ineffective assistance of counsel: A defendant is entitled to an attorney at every step of a criminal proceeding, including the aid of counsel to enable an intelligent decision as to his plea. Where ineffective assistance of counsel results in a defendant’s decision to plead guilty, the defendant has suffered a constitutional violation. To show this the defendant must establish that the attorney’s work fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and show that he was prejudiced. Simply, but for the attorney’s incompetence, defendant would not have pled.
In Sen. Craig’s case, he was unrepresented. However, the court will take a look at his education, sophistication, intelligence and it would be a weak argument to state that he lacked the skill and understanding to comprehend the proceedings. He is a senator after all.
(2) Advisement of his rights is not voluntary: As stated above, the record must be clear that in pleading guilty, the defendant was made aware of and voluntarily waived his Boykin rights. The courts review voluntary under the totality of circumstance standard. A factual review would be to see whether the defendant was assisted by a court certified interpreter which insured that he/she was fully aware of everything being said in court.
As for Craig’s case, again the crux of the inquiry will be whether he intelligently waived his constitutional rights and if so, was he free of coercion or duress. Based on my experience and unless the senator was drunk, under the influence of narcotics or both and he clearly speaks English, his waiver of his rights will be affirmed. Again, it goes back to my argument that he knows the law, he is after all, a conduit in passing them.
(3) Illegal sentence is imposed: This speaks for itself, if a defendant was sentenced to any term that is not enumerated and allowed under the specified charge, the court must vacate the plea.
(4) Fraud, misrepresentation, undue influence, coercion, improper inducement: If a defendant is threatened or promised something by the government other than what he/she was sentenced to, such acts of bad faith are grounds for good cause.
As for Craig’s situation, his sentence was very straightforward. In fact, the prosecution decreased the charge to the catch all disorderly conduct. I surmise no proof that bad faith acts occurred in his case.
Withdrawing a guilty plea is available to all but be aware that circumstances of good cause is required. A factual scrutiny of your case will be required so a well written motion and an effective presentation of your case for the subsequent evidentiary hearing could occur.