- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2006

Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney will not be charged for striking a U.S. Capitol Police officer who stopped her at a security checkpoint because he didn’t recognize her new hairstyle, a grand jury decided yesterday.

The announcement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the grand jury’s decision that assault charges would not be filed against the Georgia Democrat ended nearly three months of speculation after the incident, which generated international attention.

“Members of Congress are fortunate to have the protection and the service of one of the finest police forces in the country,” U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Wainstein said in a one-page statement issued yesterday after the decision.

“We ask the U.S. Capitol Police to protect our Capitol and to do so in a way that minimizes disruption and makes all feel welcome,” he said, calling the grand jury investigation “extensive and thorough.”

Mrs. McKinney said last night she is “relieved” the “unfortunate incident” has passed and she can continue working for her constituents “without this cloud hanging over me.”

“I accept today’s grand jury finding of ‘no probable cause’ as right and just, and the proper resolution of this case,” she said. “I want to thank my friends and supporters for standing with me during this difficult period.”

Capitol Police requested an arrest warrant be issued for Mrs. McKinney for striking Officer Paul McKenna with a closed fist when he stopped her March 29 as she went around metal detectors at a House office building checkpoint.

Before the incident, Mrs. McKinney had bypassed metal detectors, as members are allowed to do, but the officer did not recognize her and tried three times to stop her from going by him. Mrs. McKinney, who had changed her well-known braided hairstyle and was not wearing the official lapel pin that most members display, said she showed the officer her identification.

Mr. Wainstein’s statement noted that Capitol Police have a “tremendously difficult job, and it is one that Officer McKenna and his colleagues perform with the utmost professionalism and dignity.”

Mrs. McKinney, 51, initially described the conflict as “racial profiling,” and the “inappropriate touching and stopping of me, a female black congresswoman.”

She later apologized for striking the officer, but the investigation was whispered about in the hallways of the Capitol for months, as several Hill staffers were called as grand jury witnesses.

The six-term representative will face lawyer and county Commissioner Hank Johnson in a July primary.

Mrs. McKinney lost her seat in 2002 to fellow Democrat Denise Majette in a primary defeat attributed largely to comments she made suggesting President Bush profited from the September 11, attacks. She returned to Congress in 2004 when Mrs. Majette made a failed bid for a Senate seat.

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