x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Arraignment set for Cheney

A judge has set a Friday arraignment for the US vice president Dick Cheney, who has been accused of neglecting prisoners.

US vice president Dick Cheney speaks during Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery on Nov 11 2008 in Arlington, Virginia.
US vice president Dick Cheney speaks during Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery on Nov 11 2008 in Arlington, Virginia.

RAYMONDVILLE // A Texas judge has set a Friday arraignment for the US vice president Dick Cheney, former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and others named in indictments accusing them of responsibility for prisoner abuse in a federal detention center. Mr Cheney, Mr Gonzales and the others will not be arrested, and do not need to appear in person at the arraignment, the presiding judge Manuel Banales said. In the latest bizarre development in the case, the prosecutor who won the indictments was a no-show in court yesterday. 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 tomorrow. Half of the eight high-profile indictments returned on Monday by a Willacy County grand jury are tied to privately run federal detention centres 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 Mr Cheney and Mr 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 Mr 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 Mr Gonzales of stopping an investigation into abuses at the federal detention centre. An attorney for the private prison operator The GEO Group filed motions accusing Mr Guerra of "prosecutorial vindictiveness." One motion said Mr Guerra had hijacked "the grand jury process and disregarded the requirements of the Code of Criminal Procedure designed to protect defendants' due process rights." Some attorneys argued that Mr Banales may not have the authority to schedule an arraignment because the indictments were invalid. One lawyer said Mr Guerra never should have been allowed to present the cases to the grand jury because at least four of the indictments deal with people who had some role in the investigation of his office last year. "He is the witness, the victim and the prosecutor," said the attorney for Mervyn Mosbacker Jr, a former US attorney who was appointed special prosecutor to investigate Mr Guerra. The district clerk Gilbert Lozano, district judges Janet Leal and Migdalia Lopez, and special prosecutors Mosbacker and Gustavo Garza, a longtime political opponent of Mr Guerra, were all indicted on charges of official abuse of official capacity and official oppression. The grand jury tied all of their charges to an earlier investigation of Mr Guerra's office. Mr Banales dismissed an indictment against Mr Guerra last month charging him with extorting money from a bail bond company and using his office for personal business. An appeals court had earlier ruled that a special prosecutor was improperly appointed to investigate Mr Guerra. After Mr 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. Mr Guerra has been in office nearly 20 years, but was defeated in the March Democratic primary. * AP