Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cheney Indictment Moves Forward In South Texas

CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN | November 19, 2008 09:25 PM E | AP


U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, left, and Vice President Dick Cheney are shown in this 2006 file photo at the White House. Cheney and 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. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, file)

RAYMONDVILLE, Texas — A Texas judge has set a Friday arraignment for Vice President Dick Cheney, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and others named in indictments accusing them of responsibility for prisoner abuse in a federal detention center.

Cheney, Gonzales and the others will not be arrested, and do not need to appear in person at the arraignment, Presiding Judge Manuel Banales said.

In the latest bizarre development in the case, the lame-duck prosecutor who won the indictments was a no-show in court Wednesday. The judge ordered Texas Rangers to go to Willacy County District Attorney Juan Guerra's house, check on his well-being and order him to court on Friday.

Half of the eight high-profile indictments returned Monday by a Willacy County grand jury are tied to privately run federal detention centers in the sparsely populated South Texas county. The other half target judges and special prosecutors who played a role in an earlier investigation of Guerra.

One indictment charges Cheney and Gonzales with engaging in organized criminal activity. It alleges that the men neglected federal prisoners and are responsible for assaults in the facilities.

The grand jury accused Cheney of a conflict of interest because of his influence over the county's federal immigrant detention center and his substantial holdings in the Vanguard Group, which invests in private prison companies.

The indictment accuses Gonzales of stopping an investigation into abuses at the federal detention center.

An attorney for the private prison operator The GEO Group filed motions accusing Guerra of "prosecutorial vindictiveness."

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