Sean Kosofsky

Larry Craig Innocent?

Filed By Sean Kosofsky | August 29, 2007 1:06 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Politics
Tags: Idaho, Larry Craig, police entrapment, sex

There has been a great deal of controversy recently around what the real issues are going on in the Larry Craig scandal. Hypocrisy. Is he really gay. Committing a crime while in office. Infidelity. And on and on.

I just did a radio interview on the issue here.

No matter what the major issues are, one that is only starting to get some attention is that Senator Craig most likely did not break the law. It is pretty clear from the police report that he was entrapped. A listserve that I belong to erupted into discussion on this point with some people suggesting that sting operations targeting gay men are usually well-intentioned. This is garbage. What follows is what I posted in response.

Sean here. The agency I work for has worked on hundreds of these cases. We have won lawsuits on the matter so I am going to respond to this last post with a few items.

Undercover operations have 0 deterrent effect. There is no evidence to the contrary. In fact, the opposite is true. When members of the public see uniformed police - that is a deterrent. It makes many people feel more safe and if you combine it with signs saying that illegal behavior will be prosecuted or that surveillance is occurring (it doesn't have to be occurring) then you could argue there is a deterrent goal by the facility. But hiding a police officer does not prevent crime. All it does is A) catch criminals or B) invite entrapment by overzealous cops who are frustrated with cautious perpetrators that refuse to take the bait. This is the reality.

Charging people is the goal. Police are very politically motivated. Their jobs and their boss's jobs are very much designed around getting rid of undesirables, including queers. These operations usually carry a higher charge (or more charges), like in the Craig case, where he claimed he had to negotiate it down to one misdemeanor. Charging felonies is about getting queers on the sex offender registry, shaming them in public, or costing them so much money they won't dare fight the charge in court. We had a case of 770 arrests in 4 months. Almost all were innocent. 50 of the guys got in touch with Triangle and all were acquitted because the officer refused to show up for court, meaning that he would commit perjury about what he put in the police reports. There is a fine for the charge, a fine for the court fees, attorney fees and sometimes there is a "nuisance abatement" charge so they can take your car, which costs hundreds to get back. This is thousands more if you go on to appeal. I repeat: these charges do not deter men or else every cruisy area where there were arrests would see reductions. This is not the case.

Police mostly are not responding to public complaints. Police know about cruisy restrooms because of websites and rumors or maybe one public complaint. We have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after FOIA after FOIA and never once have we received a public complaint of public sex. If this is such a big problem, which justifies an undercover operation, there should be some documentation. Nada. In Michigan some MI State Police troopers call their operations "Bag a Fag" operations and some have even printed T-Shirts saying so. This is the sign of bias, not serving and protecting. If there are really people observing public sex (which is rare because most of this activity is committed by guys that do not want to be seen or caught) then a uniformed cop walking in should be able to see the same thing, right? Right. But they don't want to deter it or stumble across it, they want to invite it. They want it to happen. Nine times out of ten these men never get a warning and sent away. They invest so much money and time that they love charging on the first offense, charging high and publicizing the hell out of it.

I have trained over 1000 police, some as a condition of our lawsuit and nearly all of them believe that gay sex is so sick they would do anything to root it out. I have had cops say out loud in a training that they would watch two women go at it, send a straight couple home and bust a gay couple. I have also had cops admit in these trainings that these operations are scams designed to make money and shame people. Some chiefs and some prosecutors won't honor them at all. In MI we have shut down many of these when high level chiefs have admitted that uniformed cops are an effective way of dealing with the "problem."

My main goal here is to raise awareness about police abuse. Sen. Craig is despicable, but so is entrapment, and our community has been fighting police bull shit like this for 50 years or more. When will it end? Heterosexual sex in dressing rooms and truck stops is never addressed in the media, just gay sex. The double standard is phenomenal. Again, I am not excusing the behavior because I think Craig is gay and that he was there to meet men, but it does not prove that he would have had sex in public. Craig is likely cheating on his wife, lying to America and hiding in the closet while perched in the Senate voting to hurt gay families. These are the main issues.

I fear though that we will miss the opportunity to force this Minneapolis airport police department to explain themselves.

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Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | August 29, 2007 5:01 PM

I have to admit that this issue really conflicts me. On the one hand, I have children and now grandchildren, and have every reason not to want them anywhere near solicitation or activity in public restrooms.

On the other hand, I detest true entrapment, the double-standard involved and things like the "bag a fag" episode you outline. When I first got out of law school, although not in private practice I occasionally got phone calls from guys who had just been arrested, and entrapment was clear indicated but they didn't want the publicity of fighting it. So my usual advice was to refer to them a criminal attorney and/or to plead guilty typically to a first offense. I wasn't usually very happy with giving the latter advice.

Signs such as you describe may be the answer, but not completely. I confess I don't know the answer other than working toward a day when folks who feel that is the only way to experience sexual "intimacy" is in such furtive encounters have some other alternative. But I realize that for the persistent few, the danger/thrill of the experience is part of the challange. It would be great if as part of all the Craig fallout would be a spotlight on the entrapment hypocrisy, but I'm not holding my breath.

Michael Bedwell | August 29, 2007 6:16 PM

Those who haven’t clicked on the link about the Boise gay witch hunt in 1955 might be amused/depressed by how far back we were being smeared by “serious” publications that should have known better even then.
It references “he-men” and positions those against all homosexuals.
Gays are also assumed to be incapable of “respectability.”
And “Time” apparently did no research of their own but simply parroted what they had been told by the witch hunters who claimed that homosexuals had “preyed on hundreds of teen-age boys for the past decade” with “infamous crimes against nature" and that their “young victims” were being offered needed psychiatric help.
The fact, as I indicated in an earlier thread, was that all of the sex was consensual and that the ruthless investigation was started not to save innocent children but for political reasons. And the same paper that was trying to expose Sen. Craig [which, per se, I have no problem with], “The Idaho Statesman,” was the first to trigger and then kept alive public homo-hysteria in 1955.
One man was sentenced to LIFE IN PRISON.

Michael Bedwell | August 29, 2007 6:35 PM

EEEK! Cyber gremlins. Ignore the post above which I unintentionally copy/pasted from somewhere else.

Thought I was pasting my draft responses to your comments about trying to raise awareness about police abuse. Now I must simply "shorthand."

Your goal is admirable in and of itself, but I doubt very much if the average American is anywhere near thinking of someone cruising for gay sex in a "public" restroom [Craig's guilt or innocence aside] as what used to be called a "victimless crime." Therefore, your belief that entrapment in this case is "unfair," or "unjust," will fall upon the proverbial deaf ears AS WELL AS keeping fresh the awareness of such "disgusting" [Romney's description] and "disgraceful" [McCain's description] behaviors in their minds and, thus, unintentionally, equating them to homosexuality itself. Not just the average American, but, as you describe, even much of your captive audiences feel that way. The only thing I can imagine being harder to sell would be NAMBLA beliefs.

Similarly, unless in, for instance, a brief MSM sound bite, you can bring yourself to say quickly such behavior is definitely wrong then you will never get them to pay more attention to the more rational ways to address it.

Of course he's guilty. He's a real hypocrit!