Cheney-Gonzales Prison Indictment: Bogus or Legit? UPDATE 5: Indictments Dismissed
By Erik Larson
(UPDATES at article end)
Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales have been indicted by a Texas Grand Jury. Apparently, the indictments cite “organized criminal activity”, “conflict of interest” and "at least misdemeanor assaults" on prisoners. It accuses Cheney of having profited by way of his investment of $85 million in Vanguard, the mutual fund giant. Sounds laughable, right? The DA, Juan Guerra, just lost reelection, and the indictments reportedly include other people known as political enemies of Guerra, so some are speculating this is all politically motivated grandstanding. Guerra says “the grand jury is the one that made those decisions, not me.”
I haven’t been able to find the documents themselves; if you’ve got a link to them, please post.
The indictments will speak for themselves- according to News.com.au:
“The three-page indictment alleges that Mr Cheney profited from the abuse because he invested [$85 million] in the Vanguard Group - an investment management company that reportedly has interests in the prison companies in charge of the detention centres. It said this was a "direct conflict of interest'' because Mr Cheney had influence over the federal contracts awarded to the prison companies. The indictment also accused Mr Cheney of committing "at least misdemeanour assaults'' of inmates by allowing other inmates to assault them.
The indictment further alleges that former attorney-general Albert Gonzalez "participated by further having used his position ... to stop the investigations as to the wrongdoings which includes the assaults committed in the prison for profit in Willacy County, Texas".”
Reuters: “The grand jury in Willacy County, in the Rio Grande Valley near the U.S.-Mexico border, said Cheney is "profiteering from depriving human beings of their liberty," according to a copy of the indictment obtained by Reuters.
The indictment cites a "money trail" of Cheney's ownership in prison-related enterprises including the Vanguard Group, which owns an interest in private prisons in south Texas. Former attorney general Gonzales used his position to "stop the investigations as to the wrong doings" into assaults in county prisons, the indictment said.”
And according to this AP report: “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. The indictment has not yet been signed by the presiding judge.”
Indictments against DA Guerra himself were dismissed last month by the same TX judge, Manuel Banales, who will likely be reviewing the Cheney-Gonzales indictments.
According to the Associated Press, "After Guerra's office was raided as part of the investigation early last year, he camped outside the courthouse in a borrowed camper with a horse, three goats and a rooster. He threatened to dismiss hundreds of cases because he believed local law enforcement had aided the investigation against him."
Crooks and Liars notes that these indictments may not be so easily dismissed by claiming Federalism and Vice Presidential immunity- the case may be removed to a federal court.
In any case, that will be after a judge reviews the indictment, and if it isn’t dismissed.
UPDATE 1: Arraignment date set for this Friday, Nov 21. Cheney/Gonzales not required to appear or post bond.
UPDATE 2: DA Guerra speaks with reporters, still no substantive info on the case against Cheney and Gonzales.
UPDATE 3: Raymondville Chronicle-Willacy County News- reported Wed Nov 19, updated Thu Nov 20- "Judge removes Guerra as prosecutor for 5 of 9 criminal cases involving Vice President Cheney and Texas State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr.: Texas Rangers to escort Guerra to court Friday morning after having been found in Mexico."
More bizarreness; reportedly, DA Guerra called news media from TX claiming he didn't know he was supposed to appear in court. Judge removes him from 5 cases, as he may have to testify as a witness, finds Guerra violated professional conduct code. Guerra was not removed from the Cheney-Gonzales cases.
UPDATE 4: I see no new info of any substance in the indictment against Cheney and Gonzales; what has been reported so far is pretty much the extent of it. Guerra's is alleging that due to Cheney's $85 million in Vanguard, one of the "top 10" companies invested in the "top 3" private prison systems, and because he "exerts a tremendous influence on US. Immigration and Customs enforcement", this is a "conflict of interest" and "inherently unethical" and he is "illegally profiting according to our Texas Constitution, Article III, Section 18." Gonzales is accused of stopping investigations into wrongdoing, including assaults.
I think this is not likely to go anywhere, i'm not on the jury or an attorney, but don't they have to prove knowledge and intent and stuff like that?
No other info on the next step; the indictment was actually posted online Nov 21- RawStory posts some info from local news reports; link to KRGV's full report and the indictments at the bottom.
Texas DA reveals evidence against Cheney - RawStory.com
UPDATE 5: Associated Press- All 8 indictments have been dismissed by Judge Banales for being "improperly returned"; the judge also found "no probable cause" in the case of all except Cheney/Gonzales; in their case he didn't rule on that because they weren't present.
The following sentences are copy/pasted from the AP article:
Later, Banales dismissed that indictment and the other seven because Tony Canales, attorney for The GEO Group, showed that on the day the indictments were handed up, two alternates were part of the 10-member grand jury. Those alternates not been properly substituted.
"I find each and every one of these indictments were improperly returned," Banales said."
In all of the cases except the indictment of Cheney and Gonzales, Banales said he found no probable cause to support the indictments. He withheld that judgment on the Cheney and Gonzales indictment because they were not represented in court and did not present any argument.
Earlier in the day, District Judge Michael Peden rejected Guerra's attempt to disqualify Banales from hearing the cases. Guerra had argued Banales was part of the same conspiracy to silence him and could not be impartial.
David Oliveira, another attorney representing The GEO Group, called it one of the most "bizarre" proceedings he had ever seen.
But back in his office, Guerra refused to quit. He ranted against Banales for creating technicalities where none existed and promised to persist.
"I am going to continue fighting for the corruption," Guerra said. "I am still the district attorney."
One floor below in the courthouse a legal notice warned of a problem looming for Guerra closer to home.
A two-page notice tacked to a bulletin board advertised the Jan. 6 foreclosure sale of Guerra's home."