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."
One motion said 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 Banales may not have the authority to schedule an arraignment because the indictments were invalid. One lawyer said 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 U.S. attorney who was appointed special prosecutor to investigate Guerra.
District Clerk Gilbert Lozano, District judges Janet Leal and Migdalia Lopez, and special prosecutors Mosbacker and Gustavo Garza, a longtime political opponent of 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 Guerra's office.
Banales dismissed an indictment against 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 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.
Guerra has been in office nearly 20 years, but was defeated in the March Democratic primary.