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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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October 31, 2007 9:47 AM

Curtis told cops a lot, but tried to keep tryst quiet

Posted by David Postman

Apparently the news about Larry Craig didn't make it to La Center. That's where Republican Rep. Richard Curtis lives. There's really no other way to figure out why Curtis thought he could call the cops, tell them every little detail of his sexual encounter with a man he picked up at an "erotic boutique," and expect the matter would be kept quiet. Craig, of course, thought that pleading guilty in Minneapolis would keep his alleged airport bathroom cruising quiet.

But from the start of Curtis' trouble — when he awoke in Spokane's fanciest hotel after a night of sex with a man known in some circles as "Stallion" who said he had left with Curtis' wallet and explicit photos of the legislator — he was hoping to control the damage to his reputation and his marriage. Curtis didn't call the Spokane cops. Instead, he called a friend in the Washington State Patrol on the other side of the mountains because, a police report says, he worried "the local police would talk and it would get out to the press."

The State Patrol is not the Legislature's private police force and the trooper called his superiors who made sure the Spokane Police Department was contacted. And once Curtis made his call, it was impossible that his troubles would remain a private matter. It's all in the report written by a Spokane detective after he, another local cop and a State Patrol officer, showed up at the hotel to talk with Curtis.

Curtis stated he only wanted his wallet back and wanted to keep the incident as low key as possible. He did not want to pursue charges.

What's odd about this case — among many other things — is it is not clear if there was any wrongdoing on Curtis' part that would threaten his career. Certainly his activities will embarrass him and his family. And I don't think anyone can help but feel sorry for his wife and children who have to deal with the fallout of this. But Curtis is not being charged with any crime and could have been a victim himself. With Larry Craig, it was his guilty plea that Republican Senate leaders leaned on in calling for his immediate resignation.

That said, look for Curtis to soon announce he's quitting the Legislature. His personal life is obviously in turmoil and it is difficult to imagine he can manage to do the public's business under these circumstances.

For some reason Curtis told police a story with great detail about his night with Cody Castagna. He told them where they met, what they did, where they did it, and where in the hotel room police could find DNA evidence of his tryst. He volunteered to give a swab of his cheek so police could have a sample of his DNA. He didn't seem to hold anything back, though he waved investigators away from the bag with the nylon rope and toy stethoscope in it, saying it had nothing to do with the matter at hand. The detective wrote in his report:

I told Curtis that I wanted to collect evidence in this case so that it could be secured in case it was ever needed in the future. If he wished no further action taken, I would still have any critical evidence in case he changed his mind or the suspect continued to threaten Curtis in the future. I told Curtis that the toothpaste was already out of the tube. Curtis told me he was just trying to "put the cap back on the tube." I told Curtis that the suspect may victimize other people in the future and Curtis acknowledged that part of his job was to protect people in the State of Washington. Lt. McGovern told Curtis no matter what happened, we would have to document the case in report form regardless of whether or not the case was prosecuted. Curtis said he wished he would have just paid the additional money to the suspect because he didn't wish the case to be prosecuted. If the incident became public it could cost him his marriage and career.

Curtis hasn't said anything about the Spokane incident except to tell the editor of the Columbian that he is not gay, did not have sex with a man, and did nothing wrong. He has hired one of the state's most prominent defense attorneys, Seattle's John Wolfe. Wolfe is currently representing Ben Stevens, the Alaska politician and son of Sen. Ted Stevens, whose name has come up in that state's burgeoning political scandal.

As for Curtis' political career, Republican leaders aren't saying much. House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt is expected to release a statement later today. House Republicans aren't really ignoring the story. In the e-mailed compilation of news stories the caucus sends out each morning, there are nine about Curtis. The Columbian talked to a few local GOP officials who mostly expressed the sort of shock you'd expect, like this from Ryan Hart, vice chairman of the Clark County Republican Party.

"He's been a great representative, and at this time all I can say is we are stunned by the news," Hart said. "Our main concern right now is the Curtis family. It's important to set politics aside while this matter is sorted out."

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