November 19, 2008 in Nation/World

Cheney, Gonzalez indicted

State charges concern Texas’ private prisons
By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN Associated Press
 

McALLEN, Texas – Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have been indicted on state charges involving federal prisons in a South Texas county that has been a source of bizarre legal and political battles under the outgoing prosecutor.

The indictment returned Monday has not yet been signed by the presiding judge, and no action can be taken until that happens.

The seven indictments made public in Willacy County on Tuesday included one naming state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and some targeting public officials connected to District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra’s own legal battles.

Regarding the indictments targeting the public officials, Guerra said, “the grand jury is the one that made those decisions, not me.”

Guerra himself was under indictment for more than a year and half until a judge dismissed the indictments last month. Guerra’s tenure ends this year after nearly two decades in office. He lost convincingly in a Democratic primary in March.

Guerra said the prison-related charges against Cheney and Gonzales are a national issue and experts from across the country testified to the grand jury.

Cheney is charged with engaging in an organized criminal activity related to the vice president’s investment in the Vanguard Group, which holds financial interests in the private prison companies running the federal detention centers. It accuses Cheney of a conflict of interest and “at least misdemeanor assaults” on detainees because of his link to the prison companies.

Megan Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Cheney, declined to comment on Tuesday, saying that the vice president had not yet received a copy of the indictment.

The indictment accuses Gonzales of using his position while in office to stop an investigation in 2006 into abuses at one of the privately-run prisons.

Gonzales’ attorney, George Terwilliger III, said in a written statement, “This is obviously a bogus charge on its face, as any good prosecutor can recognize.” He said he hoped Texas authorities would take steps to stop “this abuse of the criminal justice system.”

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