Monday, April 3, 2006

The U.S. Capitol Police asked a federal prosecutor to approve an arrest warrant for Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney yesterday as two House Republicans prepared a resolution to commend the officers involved in last week’s scuffle.

Mrs. McKinney, Georgia Democrat, and her office dismissed the prosecution request as politically charged and continued to portray the incident as racially motivated.

McKinney spokesman Coz Carson said any “prosecutor who’s not a politician” would decline to prosecute.

“Any prosecutor with any sense can look at this thing and understand that it’s not something that should be blown out of proportion any further,” Mr. Carson said.

A representative for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which must approve any warrant, said officials were considering whether to file charges. No warrant had been issued as of yesterday afternoon. A felony charge of assaulting a police officer carries a maximum five-year sentence in the District.

Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a Capitol Police spokeswoman, said only that the department “has referred its investigative findings to the United States attorney.”

Mrs. McKinney continued yesterday to claim that she was a victim.

“The bottom line on this is that it doesn’t matter if you’re in the United States Capitol or the Georgia Capitol, the issue is racial profiling,” she said on CNN yesterday.

The prosecution request stems from an incident last week in which Mrs. McKinney was stopped for bypassing a metal detector at the entrance to one of the congressional office buildings.

Members of Congress are not required to go through the metal detectors, but officers did not recognize her because she recently had changed her hairdo and was not wearing the member’s pin that identifies her as a member of Congress. Once stopped, Mrs. McKinney swatted the officer with her cellular phone, according to police reports.

Mrs. McKinney also accused the Capitol Police more generally of racism.

“Even inside the Capitol Hill police department there are problems inside with the treatment of — or the respect for diversity — let me say,” she said on CNN.

When interviewer Wolf Blitzer pointed out that many Capitol Police officers are black themselves, she said: “Well, I think you should look at some of the proceedings that are going on right now with black officers and white officers inside the Capitol Hill police department, and you might reach a different conclusion.”

For Republican Reps. Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, the Capitol Police officers involved have been wrongly smeared. They plan to introduce a resolution today commending the Capitol Police department.

“The 1,700 officers of the Capitol Police force risk their lives every day protecting constituents, staff and members of Congress,” Mr. McHenry said. “The right thing to do is to commend these men and women. They deserve a pat on the back, which is more appropriate than what they’ve gotten lately.”

Mr. Diaz-Balart also said: “Every day, they exhibit honor, courtesy and professionalism. This resolution highlights and thanks the hardworking Capitol Police for the work they do in maintaining security around the Capitol for all members of Congress, staff and visitors.”

Mrs. McKinney and her supporters have spent several days blaming the altercation on race.

She was “just a victim of being in Congress while black,” her attorney, James W. Myart Jr., said last week.

When asked on CNN yesterday whether Mrs. McKinney actually struck the officer, Mr. Myart said: “In our jurisprudence, there is such a thing as self-defense. I am not denying, nor am I affirming, that that happened. The tape will show what the tape shows. The point is, however, this incident would not happen if law-enforcement officials did not have the predisposition that black people should be held to a heightened sense of suspicion.”

“Racial profiling is a well-thought-out and planned attack on black political leaders,” Georgia state Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam, a Democrat, said at a press conference yesterday in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, WSB-TV in Atlanta reported yesterday that Mrs. McKinney broke government rules by spending taxpayer money to fly in a celebrity to help dedicate a new office in Atlanta.

Her office spent about $1,000 to fly singer Isaac Hayes to Georgia. The money came from a fund that members of Congress are supposed to use for office supplies.

“McKinney staffers say they will reimburse the congressional fund for the cost of Hayes’ flight and hotel room,” according to the report.

cMatthew Cella contributed to this report.

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