WILLACY COUNTY, Texas -- US Vice President Dick Cheney was indicted today for a prison profiteering scheme and charged with abuse of prisoners. Cheney invested millions in the Vanguard Group, an investment management company with interests in the prison companies in charge of detention centers. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was also indicted in the prison profiteering scheme, resulting in ongoing prisoner assaults and at least one murder.
Human rights activists urged a probe into prison profiteering after the private prison corporation GEO Group and CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) began receiving numerous federal contracts to build detention centers. GEO's new contracts included migrant prisons in Laredo, Texas and Jena, Louisiana.
Human rights activists said the fever-pitched racism mounted in the US was induced for the purpose of prison profiteering by US officials reaping enormous profits. The increased arrests of migrants resulted in profits and a long list of new prison construction contracts for the GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut, both with a long history of assaults and murders in prisons.
A Texas grand jury indicted Cheney today and accused him of at least misdemeanor assaults of inmates by allowing inmates to assault fellow inmates. Gonzales was charged with having used his position to stop investigations into assaults committed in a prison for profit in Willacy County, Texas. Both Cheney and Gonzales were charged with engaging in organized criminal activity.
Last month, a Willacy County grand jury indicted the GEO Group, on a murder charge in the death of a prisoner days before his release in 2001. The indictment alleged the GEO Group allowed other inmates to beat Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. to death with padlocks stuffed into socks. The death happened at the Raymondville facility. A jury ordered the company to pay de la Rosa's family $47.5 million in a civil judgment in 2006. The Cheney-Gonzales indictment refers to the de la Rosa case.
Human rights activists protested both Raymondville and Hutto prisons in southwestern Texas in recent years. At Hutto, migrant women and children were abused. ICE refused to allow a UN Rapporteur into Hutto.
During the Bush-Cheney regime, prisons of torture and prisons for migrants became synonymous with the name GEO, from Guantanamo to migrant prisons in the south and along the southwest border.
Cheney said Guantanamo was vital in 2005 and detainees could expect to be treated better here than "by virtually any other government on the face of the earth."
Geo was awarded a contract for the continued management of the Migrant Operations Center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in Nov. 2, 2006. Recently, GEO received a contract for a migrant prison in Jena, La. GEO also received a contract for housing "criminal aliens" in the US, as stated on the GEO website.
GEO's migrant prisons were not restricted to the US. GEO also assumed a management contract in the Campsfield House Immigration Removal Center in England.
GEO was not the only one profiteering. The Wackenhut Corp. was also profiteering from transporting migrants from the border after their arrests. The two companies split in 2003.
All along the border, while GEO was building prisons, GEO's other half, Wackenhut Corp., was profiteering from the arrest of migrants from the borders. The United States Customs and Border Protection agency entered into the contract with Wackenhut Corp., which is now the domestic subsidiary of the U.K.-based security giant Group 4 Securicor, to transport migrants from the borders.
It comes as no surprise that the Vanguard Group is also currently a major shareholder in Halliburton, the longtime war profiteer in Iraq. Cheney's investments in the Vanguard Group are estimated at between $25 and $86 million, since exact numbers have not been released.
While the US filled its prisons with migrants, with a price on their heads, the number of Native American prisoners soared.
The US Department of Justice recently released a study showing that Native American inmates in Indian country jails increased by 24 percent between 2004 and 2007. The figures for Native Americans in all facilities -- tribal, federal and state -- increased 4.5 percent. Suicides, attempted suicides, deaths and escapes were cited as the result of deteriorating prison conditions.
Human rights activists hope the indictments of Cheney and Gonzales are the first of many indictments of the Bush-Cheney administration.
Contact Brenda Norrell at firstname.lastname@example.org
November 19, 2008 -- Reuters (US)
Texas Grand Jury Indicts Cheney, Gonzales Of Crime (Prisoner Abuse)
HOUSTON (Reuters) -- A grand jury in South Texas indicted U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and former attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Tuesday for "organized criminal activity" related to alleged abuse of inmates in private prisons.
The indictment has not been seen by a judge, who could dismiss it.
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.
Cheney's office declined comment. "We have not received any indictments. I can't comment on something we have not received," said Cheney's spokeswoman Megan Mitchell.
The indictment, overseen by county District Attorney Juan Guerra, cites the case of Gregorio De La Rosa, who died on April 26, 2001, inside a private prison in Willacy County.
The grand jury wrote it made its decision "with great sadness," but said they had no other choice but to indict Cheney and Gonzales "because we love our country."
Texas is the home state of U.S. President George W. Bush.
Bush and his Republican administration, which first took office in January 2001, leave the White House on January 20 after the November presidential elections won by Democrat Barack Obama. Gonzales was attorney general from 2005 to 2007.
Reporting by Chris Baltimore and JoAnne Allen, Editing by Frances Kerry
November 19, 2008 -- Associated Press (US)
Cheney, Gonzales Indicted In South Texas County
By Christopher Sherman
McALLEN, Texas (AP) -- 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."
Another indictment released Tuesday accuses Lucio of profiting from his public office by accepting honoraria from prison management companies. Guerra announced his intention to investigate Lucio's prison consulting early last year.
Lucio's attorney, Michael Cowen, released a scathing statement accusing Guerra of settling political scores in his final weeks in office.
"Senator Lucio is completely innocent and has done nothing wrong," Cowen said, adding that he would file a motion to quash the indictment this week.
Willacy County has become a prison hub with county, state and federal lockups. Guerra has gone after the prison-politician nexus before, extracting guilty pleas from three former Willacy and Webb county commissioners after investigating bribery related to federal prison contacts.
Last month, a Willacy County grand jury indicted The GEO Group, a Florida private prison company, on a murder charge in the death of a prisoner days before his release. The three-count indictment alleged The GEO Group allowed other inmates to beat Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. to death with padlocks stuffed into socks. The death happened in 2001 at the Raymondville facility.
In 2006, a jury ordered the company to pay de la Rosa's family $47.5 million in a civil judgment. The Cheney-Gonzales indictment makes reference to the de la Rosa case.
None of the indictments released Tuesday had been signed by Presiding Judge Manuel Banales of the Fifth Administrative Judicial Region.
Last month, Banales dismissed indictments that charged Guerra 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 Guerra.
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.
The indictments were first reported by KRGV-TV.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed
to this report.
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