Court grants US Sen Craig hearing on sex charge

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CHICAGO, Sep 12 (Reuters) A Minnesota court granted US Senator Larry Craig a hearing on his request to let him take back the guilty plea he made after his arrest in a men's room sex sting.

The Hennepin County District Court yesterday said the hearing would be held on September 26 at a courthouse in Edina, a town near Minneapolis -- just days before the September 30 deadline the Idaho Republican set for himself to resign if his name is not cleared.

The announcement came a day after lawyers for the three-term senator filed a motion in court saying he pleaded guilty to the charge against him because he panicked under intense anxiety and fear of publicity, and is innocent of wrongdoing.

Craig, 62, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in August, was ordered to pay 575 dollars and given a 10-day suspended sentence.

He was arrested on June 11 at the Minneapolis airport by an undercover officer who said Craig peeked into his stall, sat down in the stall next to him, tapped his foot and later brushed it against his and reached his hand under the divider in an effort to solicit a sexual encounter.

Under pressure from Republicans, who lost control of Congress last year following a string of scandals, Craig announced his intention to resign effective September 30, but indicated he might not do so if he could clear his name.

Reuters TB VP0437

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