Grand Jury to Hear McKinney Case

Updated

The US Attorney’s office convened a grand jury to hear the case against Cynthia McKinney.

WASHINGTON — The federal prosecutor investigating the confrontation between Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia and a Capitol Hill police officer last week has asked a grand jury to decide whether the six-term congresswoman should be charged with assault, police and legal authorities said Wednesday.

It’s not uncommon for a federal prosecutor to refer a case involving a prominent person to a grand jury to help blunt any appearance of political favoritism. Outside legal experts said the move also could indicate that U.S. Attorney Ken Wainstein’s office intends to seek felony charges against McKinney.

“As a practical matter, prosecutors don’t go to grand juries for a misdemeanor,” said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.

The prosecutor’s office was expected to call at least three eyewitnesses to testify before the grand jury about the scuffle that occurred last Wednesday when a police officer, not recognizing McKinney as a member of Congress, stopped her from skirting a security checkpoint, as congressmen are allowed to do, according to police and legal authorities.

McKinney was in Washington Wednesday with her lawyer, Michael Raffauf, but neither Raffauf nor an office spokesman returned phone calls and emails seeking comment.

Capitol Hill police turned the investigation over to the federal prosecutor on Monday. Wainstein’s office said earlier that he could decide by the end of the week whether to press charges against McKinney — from assaulting a police officer, a felony, down to simple assault, a misdemeanor. Police and legal authorities said a grand jury could still make that deadline.

Testimony starts as early as Thursday:

(CNN) — No more he-grabbed-she-slapped — whether U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney should be charged over a confrontation with Capitol Police last week will be decided by a grand jury, perhaps as soon as next week, said federal law enforcement sources familiar with the case.

Federal prosecutors have decided to present the case, and the grand jury will begin hearing testimony Thursday, the two sources said.

Senior congressional sources said that two House staff members — Troy Phillips, an aide to Rep. Sam Farr, D-California, and Lisa Subrize, executive assistant to Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Michigan — have been subpoenaed to testify.

Good. I hope she’s indicted and prosecuted.

Update: Cynthia Tucker, editorial page editor for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, weighs in:

There is a lot of bad news in black America. After a decade of rising affluence, poverty is on the upswing. Marriage is out of fashion, but diabetes, hypertension and heart failure are not. We die sooner than whites. And black men remain disproportionately shut out of the mainstream — unemployed, on drugs, in prison.

So if black activists and political leaders are looking for matters crying out for redress or reform or fairness, I could give them a list. Cynthia McKinney’s complaints would not be on it.

If you’re going to call a press conference and muster such prominent supporters as Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover, you ought to be sure the issue is important enough to command national attention. You should save that sort of clarion call for the most serious matters — renewing the Voting Rights Act or raising the minimum wage so that more black men can support their children. The precious spotlight of national news coverage should not be wasted on a spoiled and demanding congresswoman who thinks she’s the Soul Queen of Capitol Hill.

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