So much for the Cheney/Gonzales indictments

SO MUCH FOR THE CHENEY/GONZALES INDICTMENTS…. Following up on an item from two weeks ago, a peculiar district attorney in southern Texas indicted Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales as part of an investigation into private prison companies running federal detention centers in the area. While charges against Cheney and Gonzales might sound encouraging, the whole thing seemed kind irresponsible, if not silly.

The presiding judge did not sign off on the indictments after they were secured, and yesterday, he dismissed the indictments altogether, effectively ending the controversy.

Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra had accused Cheney and the other defendants of responsibility for prisoner abuse. The judge’s order ended two weeks of sometimes-bizarre court proceedings.

Guerra is leaving office at the end of the month after soundly losing in his March primary election.

“I suggest on behalf of the law that you not present any cases to the grand jury involving these defendants,” Administrative Judge Manuel Banales said in court while ruling that eight indictments against Cheney, Gonzales and others were invalid.

He also set a Dec. 10 hearing on whether to disqualify Guerra from those cases.

Even in defeat, Guerra saw the outcome as confirmation of the very conspiracy he had pursued. “I expected it,” he said. “The system is going to protect itself.”

Well, I suppose that’s kind of true — the system has checks to “protect itself” from unwarranted criminal indictments.

To be clear, I’m not saying Cheney’s and Gonzales’ conduct should be free of prosecutorial scrutiny, but there’s a right way to hold these two accountable for their deeds. This isn’t it.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.