Michael Vick can heave a big sigh of relief! This morning he’s been bumped off the front page by Larry Craig, apparently because the country is more worried about restroom foot-tapping than professional athletes who torture unwilling dogfight combatants to death.
But as I mulled over what might have motivated Craig to plead guilty, it occurred to me that there might be video footage of the incident, because after all, this was an airport bathroom, where video cameras might be expected.
According to a post in Minnesota Monitor, there are no cameras:

The restroom where Craig was arrested is well known among men who seek sex in public places.
Squirt.org is a site that runs a bulletin board for such men. “If you enter from the terminal, turn left and go past wash basins, urinals to the back where the stalls are. This place is THE most cruisy public place I have been,” wrote one poster. “Just passed thru here the other day. This place is so hot. This place has a constant flow and variety of hot guys,” wrote another. Even another poster wrote, “This is the best spot for anonymous action I’ve ever seen.” Of all the postings in Minnesota, the airport restroom was ranked the top by that website.
The site, Squirt.org, lists how to get there: “Across from Food Court. Go through security to main Mezzanine where main shopping is located. Look for Starbucks Coffee stand and Men’s Room is across from there,” what to expect: “Very cruisy, no security cameras or guards. Most of the time, men will show themselves to you at the urinals and invite into stalls or nearby hotels. Plenty of dark stall action, too!Update: No one is permitted beyond the security checkpoints without an airline ticket now,” and some of the biggest pet peeves: “Stall hoggers! Get off and get out! Cleaning crews may be overly curious, but won’t interfere.”

Naturally, I’m wondering why a bathroom known for sexual activity which is located in an area past the checkpoints wouldn’t have security cameras. Clearly, they discourage sexual solicitation of the sort the police are trying to stop, and they might help catch the kind of people who use bathrooms to straighten up their suicide vests, and other contraband.
A commenter elsewhere argues they’d be a deterrent not only against criminals, but against dishonest police

Security cameras in restrooms would be a real..deterrent in other ways too..including in cases where the sex police lie..

Is it possible that police who engage in restroom stakeouts might lie? Might they cut corners? Back to Minnesota Monitor:

The details of Craig’s arrest are not unique. According to a post in June at cruisingforsex.com, another public sex site, “Twenty people were arrested within the past week. Plainclothes officers wait in the stalls and tap their feet and even put their foot on yours and then arrest you when you look under the stall wall.”

Frankly, the idea that an officer might sit down and start that foot tapping business in a stall right next to me makes me a little nervous. As I said in the last post on this subject, I’m against public sex. And restrooms are public places, right?
Hmmm…
Or are they? They seem to be quasi public, but then, if you go inside a stall and lock yourself in, do you have a reasonable anticipation that what you do in there is your business?
Or don’t you? Is the business limited to taking a leak, taking a dump, throwing up? What if you’re just feeling awful, and overcome by anger, or nervous anxiety, or agoraphobia? Can you just go in there and chill out? I would think so, but would you cross a line if you did anything of a personal sexual nature? In “private”? What is private? I’m not trying to defend Craig here (who I think is an idiot regardless), but I’m now genuinely curious. What can be prohibited in this quasi-private, quasi-public zone?
Well, for starters, you can’t smoke in most bathrooms. No privacy there. But Craig wasn’t accused of smoking; he was tapping his foot. Regardless of sexual intent, I don’t think that he had a right to tap his foot in such a manner that it came in contact with the foot of someone else. But what if he just tapped? That’s a “signal,” right? Are “signals” illegal? Isn’t winking at someone a signal too? How about smiling and introducing yourself to someone? Is that any more illegal in a bathroom than anywhere else?
I’m just curious, what would happen if the next time I’m in Minneapolis, I were to go into that restroom with my little video camera, sit down in a stall, and wait for some asshole to come in and go “tap tap”?
OK, it’s time to play “the blogging of the tapping.”
The following is hypothetical, OK? I am sitting here in my living room, and no one else is present. (Well, Coco is snoring behind me on the floor.)
So I go in, pull down my pants in order to blend in and look “normal,” I sit down, and wait.
Man enters bathroom. I notice him looking under the stalls, and it appears that he sees my feet with my pants falling over my shoes. He then enters the stall next to mine. I don’t move my feet, but I turn on the camera, select the video setting, and turn it on, pointing it straight down so that it does not invade the privacy of the stall next door, but only shoots the floor area of “my” stall. After a short while, the man’s damn foot reaches over inside my floor area and gives a “TAP!”
At this point I’m confused. What should the proper response be?
“Excuse me, but I need to know whether you are an undercover officer or a normal pervert.”
No, that doesn’t sound right. Perhaps I should write a question along those lines on a piece of paper, and put it on the floor where he can see it?
“Hi! I’m a blogger, working on a story! Could I ask you a few questions about the Minneapolis foot-tapping culture?”
“I noticed you just tapped at me. Should I tap back at you, or might it be taken the wrong way?”
This is maddening to analyze, and it all made me want to research Minnesota law on the subject. I figured, why reinvent the wheel? With the foot-tapping scandal being front page news everywhere, surely someone at Volokh.com has already done the work for me.
And Dale Carpenter has, with a long and thoughtful analysis, in which he concludes that Craig did nothing illegal:

…assuming for the sake of argument that Craig did everything the officer alleged, how was it the basis for a criminal charge that could get him a $1,000 fine and/or ten days in jail?
Disorderly conduct is a notoriously nebulous crime, allowing police wide discretion in making arrests and charges for conduct or speech that is little more than bothersome to police or to others. The “disorderly conduct” statute to which Craig pleaded guilty provides that one who knowingly “[e]ngages in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct or in offensive, obscene, or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others” is guilty of the misdemeanor of disorderly conduct. Minn. Stat. ยง 609.72, subd. 1(3) (2004).
More specific criminal charges were not advanced. A charge of interference with privacy was dismissed. Craig was not charged with any other crime, like public lewdness, indecent exposure, public sexual conduct, solicitation of prostitution, harassment, resisting arrest, or assault.

As Carpenter points out, people seem to be forgetting that not only was there no sex, there wasn’t even lewd or obscene conduct. He thinks the cops were being overzealous:

People should not have to tolerate actual sexual conduct in public places, but that’s not what happened here. Craig’s conduct was not obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy. The officer might have considered Craig’s actions “offensive . . . conduct . . . tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others.” But if that’s so, it seems a pretty thin basis for charging him. A reasonable person faced with Craig’s alleged behavior would have moved his foot away and/or muttered a simple “no thanks” or “stop that,” which likely would have brought an end to it. A continuation of the unwelcome behavior might then have been enough to charge him with something, but again, that didn’t happen. In fact, the officer tapped his own foot in response, indicating the interest was mutual.
At most, Craig was implicitly inviting another adult to engage in some kind of sexual behavior in a public place. I’m not a Minnesota criminal lawyer, but I don’t think asking a stranger for sex in a public place, while vulgar and rude under many circumstances, would by itself be a crime under state law. At any rate, Craig wasn’t charged with that.

That is called “hitting on someone.” It goes on all the time, often in bars, in workplaces, online, and probably in the blogosphere. The normal response to such an unwanted invitation is to tell the person who is hitting on you that you are not interested.

What really seems to have happened is that the airport police had received complaints about sexual activity and were acting over-zealously to deter it, regardless of the niceties of state criminal law. Many gay men throughout our history have felt the sting of these public decency campaigns, have been arrested for alleged sex crimes, and have pleaded guilty at unusually high rates in order to avoid the embarrassment and other consequences of being outed. When newspapers print their names, as they often do, the consequences can be devastating. Like them, Craig probably wanted to avoid publicity and pleaded guilty to “disorderly conduct” in a futile effort to save his reputation and his job. Whatever we think of Craig’s views on gay rights, or of the cosmic justice in this particular Senator being ensnared in these particular circumstances, it’s difficult to see how he’s a criminal.

I suspect that’s about right. As to the exact law, Carpenter quotes this from a law professor with expertise in Minnesota criminal law:

Minn. Stat. 617.23, the indecent exposure statute, covers lewd or lascivious conduct in a public place. Sex and masturbation count as lewd and lascivious acts. There is, however, some Minnesota case law suggesting that public restrooms aren’t “public places” once you close the door to your stall. State v. Bryant, 177 N.W.2d 800, 803-04 (Minn. 1970).
Even if the completed act would be a crime, it’s doubtful that merely asking for sex in the restroom would be a crime.

That was what I suspected yesterday. Under the facts as they are alleged, there appears to have been no crime here.
Moreover, it is not possible to charge someone for attempting something which is not illegal. Minnesota apparently does not criminalize sexual solicitation:

Minnesota, unlike some jurisdictions, does not have a general solicitation statute. Mere solicitation of a crime is not a crime. State v. Lowrie, 54 N.W.2d 265, 266 (Minn. 1952); State v. Johnson, 2005 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 352 at *9. Minnesota does of course have an attempt statute, 609.17, but that requires a substantial step toward completion of the crime, plus the specific intent to commit the crime. I think it’s possible but doubtful that Craig’s acts would count as a substantial step, and it’s also possible but doubtful that you could infer such a specific intent. Or rather — there’s some inference there, but it’s not strong enough to support guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

I don’t see any way that a jury could find that foot tapping is a “substantial step” towards having sex in public. Frankly, what is alleged constituted little more than the appearance of cruising. And if the officer tapped at Craig, then he was pretending to cruise.
Sorry, but I’m not seeing a crime.
I see only foolish behavior by a Senator, and a huge public outcry. The latter is driven mainly by the fact that he’s a Republican (and therefore a “hypocrite”), and can expect bitter condemnation by both parties, with very few defenders.
The whole thing makes me not want to go to the bathroom at the Minneapolis airport unless I’m carrying a camera!
MORE: Does the GOP want homos expelled? Left wing blogs like this seem to think so, and as evidence they cite Freeper commenters.
I’m not sure that the Republicans are competent enough to conduct an anti-gay witch hunt even if they wanted to. Besides, if theories like those expressed here and here are correct, then all of the anti-gay Republicans are gay hypocrites anyway, so they should have to out themselves and go join the sodomitic Democratic Party where they belong.
Besides, why should anti-gay Republicans conduct witch hunts when the Democrats are doing their work for them?
I’m struggling with the logic of “all Republican homo haters are hypocritical self hating homos” on the left, coupled with “therefore, they should be forced to become Democrats” on the right.
I think it’s a shame to see a relatively minor issue having such a pathological hold on so many people’s, um, minds.
(Right. As if the Freeper WorldNetDaily Republicans and their “outing” allies on the left could care less what I think!)