A grand jury declined Friday to indict Rep. Cynthia McKinney in connection with a confrontation in which she admitted hitting a police officer who tried to stop her from entering a House office building.
The grand jury had been considering the case since shortly after the March 29 incident, which has led to much discussion on Capitol Hill about race and the conduct of lawmakers and the officers who protect them.
“We respect the decision of the grand jury in this difficult matter,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Wainstein.
His statement, released late Friday, also included support for the officer involved, Paul McKenna, and the Capitol Police. He said, “This is a tremendously difficult job, and it is one that Officer McKenna and his colleagues perform with the utmost professionalism and dignity.”
With that, Wainstein closed a case that has simmered with racial and political tension.
McKinney’s office had no immediate comment.
Racial profiling in question
The encounter began when McKinney, D-Ga., tried to enter a House office building without walking through a metal detector or wearing the lapel pin that identifies members of Congress.
McKenna did not recognize her as a member of Congress and asked her three times to stop. When she ignored him, he tried to stop her. McKinney then hit him.
McKinney described the encounter as “racial profiling,” insisting she had been assaulted and had done nothing wrong.
McKinney is black. McKenna is white.
She received little public support for that stance, even within the Congressional Black Caucus.
Wainstein, meanwhile, sought an indictment from a federal grand jury, with assault on a police officer mentioned in the filings as a possible charge. That is a felony that would require an indictment.
‘I regret its escalation’
The grand jury then subpoenaed several House aides thought to have witnessed the encounter. McKenna, too, testified. The grand jury voted not to indict her. Prosecutors also could have charged McKinney with simple assault without having to seek an indictment.
Members of the black caucus privately urged McKinney to put the matter behind her. The next morning, she appeared on the House floor to apologize.
“I am sorry that this misunderstanding happened at all, and I regret its escalation, and I apologize,” McKinney, D-Ga., said April 6. “There should not have been any physical contact in this incident.”