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A Texas grand jury has issued indictments against Vice President Dick Cheney and former attorney general Alberto Gonzalez over abuse at privately run prisons, court documents showed.
The three-page indictment Tuesday alleges that Cheney profited from the abuse because he invested 85 million dollars in a mutual fund company which holds shares of for-profit prisons.
It said this is a "direct conflict of interest" because Cheney had influence over the federal contracts awarded to the prison companies.
The indictment also accused Cheney of committing "at least misdemeanor assaults" of inmates by allowing other inmates to assault them.
The indictment further alleges that Gonzalez "participated by further having used his position … to stop the investigations as to the wrong doings which includes the assaults committed in the prison for profit in Willacy County, Texas."
Cheney and Gonzalez were charged with engaging in organized criminal activity.
Several other related indictments were brought against a host of public officials in what one lawyer called a circus act by a local prosecutor seeking revenge in his final weeks in office.
"We look forward to having the opportunity to have an independent, competent prosecutor review the facts, and are confident that once that happens these baseless charges will be dismissed," said Michael Cowen, who represents Texas state senator Eddie Lucio.
Cheney’s spokeswoman declined to comment because his office had not yet received a copy of the indictment.
"I’m not going to speculate or forecast the vice president’s legal options," Megan Mitchell told AFP.
"Let’s wait and see if we even receive one."