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Capitol Hill Scuffle Said Headed to Grand Jury

A lawyer says federal prosecutors have taken on the case involving Rep. Cynthia McKinney.

April 06, 2006|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury will soon begin hearing evidence about Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney's run-in with a Capitol Police officer, a lawyer familiar with the case said late Wednesday.

The lawyer, who declined to be identified because of grand jury secrecy, confirmed that federal prosecutors had agreed to get involved in the case, in which the black lawmaker is accused of striking a white officer after he tried to stop her from entering a House office building without going through a security checkpoint, as Congress members are entitled to do.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said McKinney had turned the officer's failure to recognize her into a criminal matter when she failed to stop at his request, and then struck him.

"He reached out and grabbed her and she turned around and hit him," Gainer said on CNN. "Even the high and the haughty should be able to stop and say, 'I'm a congressman' and then everybody moves on."

"This is not about personality," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). "It's not about racial profiling. It's about making this place safer."

McKinney charged anew that racism was behind what she called a pattern of difficulty in clearing Capitol Hill security checkpoints.

"This has become much ado about hairdo," she said Wednesday on CBS' "The Early Show." McKinney, a Georgia Democrat, recently dropped her trademark cornrows in favor of an afro.

The police aren't the ones who are racist, said Republican Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas.

"Cynthia McKinney is a racist," he said on Fox News Channel's "Fox and Friends," a day after abandoning his reelection bid under a cloud of ethics charges. "Everything is racism with her. This is incredible arrogance that sometimes hits these members of Congress, but especially Cynthia McKinney."

Capitol Police have turned the case over to U.S. Atty. Kenneth J. Wainstein, who must decide whether to press charges against McKinney. His office had no comment on any grand jury proceeding.

McKinney has garnered little support among fellow Democrats over the March 29 altercation. No one in her party joined her at a news conference Friday on the matter.

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