Hearing set in Cheney indictment

RAYMONDVILLE, TX The state Supreme Court's chief justice appointed District Judge Michael Peden of San Antonio to preside over a hearing Monday on a motion to recuse and disqualify Judge J. Manuel Banales.

The prosecutor asked that Banales not hear the case. District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra contends Banales has worked closely with state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., one of the defendants in the case.

Half of the indictments are linked to privately run federal detention centers in the sparsely populated southern Texas county and accuse the public officials of culpability in the alleged abuse of prisoners. The indictment against Cheney alleges that his personal investment in the Vanguard Group, which invests in private prison companies, gives him culpability in alleged prisoner abuse. Lucio is accused of illegally profiting from prison consulting fees.

The other half of the indictments target judges, special prosecutors and the district clerk who played a role in an earlier investigation of Guerra. It accuses them of abusing their powers in investigating Guerra's office.

Charges alleging Guerra extorted money from a bail bond company and used his office for personal business were dismissed in October, but he had already lost the March Democratic primary by then. Guerra has accused Banales of allowing the 2007 indictment against him to languish for more than a year to damage his re-election chances.

Banales appointed a temporary prosecutor to handle the local officials indicted in the case because Guerra has sparred with them for years and would be a witness in their cases.

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