Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cheney, Gonzales, Lucio, & GEO Group Indicted in Willacy County, Texas

Not directed related to family detention--yet. Willacy County, the home of the Raymondville detention complex, has returned indictments for Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Texas state legislature representative Eddie Lucio, and the GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut) for their roles in the immigration detention system and the 2001 death of an inmate.

The Valley Morning Star reports:

The indictment charges Cheney with illegally profiting, by virtue of his office, from $85 million in investments in the Vanguard Group. The group invests in companies that house federal detainees. He also is charged with exerting pressure on how much prisons are paid to house detainees. ...

The indictment alleges that Gonzales used his position to stop investigations into assaults committed in the private prison managed by the GEO Group in Willacy County.

The GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corp., was also indicted on murder charges involving the 2001 death of an inmate killed in a Raymondville prison. The indictment accuses GEO of allowing inmates to beat Gregorio De La Rosa Jr., 33, of Laredo, to death with padlocks stuffed into socks. ...

Lucio is charged with profiting from public office when he acted as a consultant for Management and Training Corp., CorPlan Corrections, Aguirre Inc., Hale Mills Corp., TEDSI Infrastructure Group, Inc., and Dannenbaum Engineering Corp.

Last summer, Raymondville city council supported a bid for a new family detention center there, though ICE has not yet awarded those contracts. Needless to say, this series of indictments raises serious concerns about the viability of any facility that would house small children and families. (For more about these bids, see our previous blog posts.)

The case will be interesting because, as Will Bunch of and ABC News blogger Jan Greenberg, point out, the county doesn't have jurisdiction over federal crimes. In addition, the DA, Juan Angel Guerra, is in his last lame duck days as DA for the county. Further, four of the eight defendants participated in an earlier suit of Guerra, begging accusations of political vindictiveness. The Willacy County Sherriff even responded with a suit against Guerra, charging retaliation. According to Guerra, however, he has been investigating this case under the radar for some time.

It is unfortunate that these indictments emerge from such a wild political climate because the conflict of interests for public officials, serious problems with detainee care, and massive goverment spending on the incarceration for non-criminal violations should demand the attention of policy-makers and judge far beyond South Texas. The indictment hearings have been set for December 1, and we'll follow up here as soon as we can.