March 31, 2006

" This whole incident was instigated by the inappropriate touching and stopping of me, a female black congresswoman."

Said Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who may be criminally charged for slapping the police officer who blocked her entry into the Capitol when she refused to stop after being asked three times:
Her lawyer, James W. Myart Jr., said, "Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, like thousands of average Americans across this country, is, too, a victim of the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials because of how she looks and the color of her skin."

"Ms. McKinney is just a victim of being in Congress while black," Myart said.
He's making the police officer sound like Matt Dillon in "Crash"!

We're asked to picture the member of Congress as the poor underdog here? Before working on this self-presentation as a victimized black woman, McKinney had a earlier draft that said: "It is ... a shame that while I conduct the country's business, I have to stop and call the police to tell them that I've changed my hairstyle so that I'm not harassed at work." The arrogance really comes across in that version. How dare you not recognize me! How dare you stall me as I go about work that is so much more important than yours!


mcg said...

Her lawyer had the gall to say that there is no excuse for the officers at that station not to recognize every member of Congress. That they actually ought to be trained to recognize them all before they actually assume their duties.

That would be all, what, 535 Senators and House members?

Do they have to pass a test before they can work there? And score 100%?

reader_iam said...

Why can't she just wear her lapel pin?

Apparently she can't be bothered, or r doesn't think she should have to.

Because she's oh, so special.


jeff said...


There really is no other response. Next time maybe she'll wear the identifying pin like she's supposed to.

The Drill SGT said...

Here's a bit of context on what can happen at a checkpoint when somebody blows through it with a gun:

Murder Charges Filed in Capitol Rampage
Sunday, July 26, 1998
Russell Eugene Weston Jr., a former mental patient from Montana, was charged yesterday with murdering two U.S. Capitol Police officers during a rampage in the Capitol building that allegedly began when Weston walked up behind an officer and shot him point-blank in the back of the head.

Law enforcement sources and court documents added chilling new details yesterday about the Friday afternoon killings of Jacob J. Chestnut, 58, and John M. Gibson, 42, both 18-year veterans of the force. They said that after bursting through a Capitol security checkpoint and shooting Chestnut, Weston chased a screaming woman down a hallway until he was confronted by Gibson, who pushed the woman out of harm's way and exchanged deadly gunfire with the intruder.

Weston, 41, slipped into unconsciousness and was downgraded early yesterday from stable to critical condition after surgery Friday at D.C. General Hospital. Doctors said he had a "50-50" chance of survival. He was ordered held without bond yesterday during a brief hearing in D.C. Superior Court.

An FBI agent's affidavit filed in court says Gibson and another officer -- identified by law enforcement sources as Douglas B. McMillan -- fired at Weston several times. Angela Dickerson, a 24-year-old employee of a Virginia furniture store, was wounded by stray gunfire. She was released yesterday from George Washington University Medical Center.

Meanwhile, official Washington paused yesterday to pay tribute to the pair of officers who died in service to their government, as the nation's leaders vowed that the domed symbol of American democracy would remain open and accessible to the public. The Capitol did reopen yesterday, with flags at half staff and the Capitol Police force guarding the doors as usual.

"I want to emphasize that this building is the keystone of freedom, that it is open to the people because it is the people's building," said House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "No terrorist, no deranged person, no act of violence will block us from preserving our freedom and keeping this building open to people from all over the world."

President Clinton yesterday praised the two men as heroes who "laid down their lives for their friends, their co-workers and their fellow citizens," and he reminded the country that 79 other law enforcement officers have been killed this year. "Every American should be grateful to them for the freedom and the security they guard with their lives," Clinton said.

Friday's incident has brought new attention to the tricky security balance between ensuring public access and protecting public officials, and several members of Congress said it demonstrated the need for a long-delayed $125 million visitor's center that could help security officers control access to the Capitol complex.

But most observers agreed there was little the Capitol Police could have done to stop a determined and apparently deranged gunman like Weston, who had complained to neighbors in Rimini, Mont., that the government was using a satellite dish to spy on him. He once accused his frail 86-year-old landlady of assault and battery, and allegedly harassed several county and state officials when they refused to press charges against her.

brylin said...

Congressman McKinney faces arrest for FIFTH assault on police officer.

Palladian said...

She also happens to be one of the frothiest (public) nutbars in Congress who, among other things, suggested that BUSH KNEW!!1 about 9/11 and wrote an apology letter to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal when Giuliani refused his 10 million donation to the victim's fund. She's praised Mugabe's policies in Zimbabwe and has rather (ahem) interesting views regarding Israel. She could turn a botched pizza order into a chance to play the race card; hell, she makes Al Sharpton seem mild-mannered and principled. But criticize her and you're just part of the RIGHT WING SMEAR MACHINE. Go ahead, google her name. You'll get 4000 "progressive" websites doing damage control and deflection work for her, pro bono.

Her constituents deserve better, thought I don't doubt that many congresspersons share her arrogant sense of entitlement.

downtownlad said...

I'd be interested in seeing the video. Did she punch him in the face or the arm? I think that makes a difference in whether or not its assault.

Still dumb of her.

Jonathan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elizabeth said...

Wear the lapel pin.

But I'd be happier if everyone who enters the building had to go through the same security. Why are there any exceptions?

Gerry said...

Of course the race card gets played. Anyone see that coming? Whew!

Yet, in cases 100 million times more subtle than this one, people on the left who won't speak up to defend the clearly troubled McKinney will immediately pounce on the right as being bigoted without any seeming recognition of the fact that, just maybe, the overwhelming majority of them are arguing in good faith and might have a point worth at least pondering.

Synova said...

I agree, Elizabeth. Cynthia's misbehavior aside, good leadership principles suggest that leadership *demonstrate* the importance of security by not only complying but by making a point of it.

If they are too important to do something, what they don't do must not be important.

TWM said...

As a cop I can tell you it makes NO difference whether she hit him in the arm or chest. It is assault.

I wondered how long it would take her to play the race card. Only as long as it took her to realize that the Capitol Police might actually do something about it. Until then she was fine with that "I support the police for the hard job they do and it is all a misunderstanding" lie.

Pathetic she is.

Course what is more pathetic is that this officer's bosses will probably cave and not back him.

Almost enough to make a cop not move so fast the next time someone attacks the Capitol.

Almost, but not quite, because they are professionals.

I wish Congress had some.

PatCA said...

Why do you say there are exceptions? The only exceptions are the members themselves if they are wearing the lapel pin and if they are recognized. If there's a bunch of people going through, or you don't have on your pin, or if the officer is just being careful, you get stopped.

Her arrogance insults black people as well as the cops there who have died protecting those politicans. I'm sure tho that they will soon cave, apologize for their insensitivity, and then ease up on their bigoted "profiling."

DaveG said...

I'm sorry to say it, but this most recent calculated response reminds me of the esteemed Senator John "Do You Know Who I Am" Kerry.

The oft-demonstrated imperiousness of our so-called representatives is a disturbing symptom of our descent into having a true ruling class.

I for one wholly support term limits for the legislative branch.

Harkonnendog said...

Hey, she's a member of Congress and a woman of color! That means
2) Even if they failed to recognize her they had not right to stop her
3) They should have known that stopping a person of color must be handled in a very courteous fashion, IF AT ALL. That's the price you pay, as a nation, for 500 years of slavery.

Finn Kristiansen said...

I tend to doubt the accuracy of most of what flows from Ms.McKinney. But I do wonder: How many members tend to wear their pins, AND, how many members are actually black? Are there members who tend to breeze through, without pin? Is Congress so filled with blacks that the black faces blur, and it's easy to forget who is who?

Simon said...

I gladly join the chorus of disapproval of McKinney, for all the reasons offered by preceding posters.

Imagine the story stripped of its particulars. A woman ran into the Longworth House Office Building, avoiding a metal detector and ignoring a member of the capitol police who shouted after her. When the cop grabbed her, she turned around and punched him. If this was all we knew of the story, what would we conclude? I would conclude that the person in that story is lucky she didn't find out what a tazer feels like. So why on earth should it make any difference at all to our view of the story that the person was a member of Congress? I just can't fathom what goes through a person's head - there is a cop chasing after you yelling "stop," at what point does the appropriate response become to turn around and punch him?

Gaius Arbo said...

At the point she hit the officer, he would have been justified to use reasonable force to subdue her. Period. She is very , very lucky that she is not nursing several damaged parts of her body right now.

McKinney may finally be the straw that breaks the back of average people tolerating the complete misuse of the race card. She is so wrong in this that no sane person can possibly defend her actions.

This isn't about race - it's about being a complete jerk. Period.

Jacob said...

Her constituents deserve better
They really don't. They do keep electing her after all.

mcg said...


While you are technically correct, I am for one very glad that the officer exercised restraint. If you think the race-baiting is bad NOW, imagine how bad it would have been had he actually done what he was entitled to do to subdue her.

Wickedpinto said...

This happened at one of the various "checkpoints" that lead into the house of congress. I Hope there is video. If there isn't? THATS! a scandal. If there is video and Cynthia gets off? thats an even bigger one.

If there is video or witnesses, and she gets off, we should just make highschool government courses consist of WHO is a protected person, and who isn't. We should call Tony, and ask him to burn the Magna Carta, the day after the acquittal, and we should just start all over from scratch.

Gaius Arbo said...

I agree mcg, I said she was lucky. That the officer restrained himself shows exactly who the better person in this is,

Hint: It isn't McKinney

Wickedpinto said...

As a cop I can tell you it makes NO difference whether she hit him in the arm or chest. It is assault.

I was, charged with crimes in the Marine Corps for "assault" and I never came into direct physical contact with anyone. If I can lose 3 ranks, 3 months pay, spend a month in the brigg for THREATENING (which I was guilty of) assault, and which was described as "simple assault with implications of immininence(spelling)" as a 20 year old drunken retarded kid, Then a LAWMAKER, who, by the way MAKES LAWS! should know that it is WRONG to punch police.

jinnmabe said...

The picture that Fox News is running on their front web page makes her look insane, and I thought, oh that's unfair. See this.

Then I saw the video. Look, I'm not on her side here, but how likely is it that you could forget that face? I'm pretty sure it's going to haunt me for the rest of my life.

Balfegor said...

On definition for assault can be found here. Obviously, it's not a perfect indication of law in the District of Columbia (You can find the code here, but my experience is that direct links to that site don't work; see Title 22, Chapter 4, or § 22-404, which is probably the most applicable), but the DC code (on a 2 minute review) doesn't seem especially detailed as to what actually constitutes an assault.

Anyhow, the threshold for assault isn't particularly high, and threats placing someone in immediate apprehension of bodily injury can often do it. So can unwanted touching -- it doesn't necessarily have to be violent in the way we usually understand "assault" to be.

nedludd said...

Let's see, you are a backbencher who is given simple, reasonable way to identify yourself (the lapel pin) which lets you avoid normal security procedures. Even that simple measure is too difficult, so you say that the police force should reconize by sight 535 people, and be able to pick up that the person who just bypassed the metal detector is one of the 535, even though see will not obey commands to stop.

I have yet to read what the cop did that would be classified as the excessive force or "inappropriate touching" she is claiming. Would she prefer that the Capital police give everyone bypassing security and ignoring commands to stop the benefit of the doubt?

“We’re not here to judge the merits of the case, but here to support our sister,” said Glover, most famous for the "Lethal Weapon" movie franchise Question, at what point do you stop blindly supporting people because they are the same race/religion/fraternity/whatever as you? I'm sorry, but if it was a middle aged white guy who got Tasered for bypassing security my reaction would be more along the lines of "serves you right" than solidarity with a fool.

Although I must say I am surprised that it took her this long to play the race card. I am even more amzed the Jews have not been blamed yet, given her past history.

altoids1306 said...

Hurray for flagrant use of the race card. The more often it is used in improbable and incredible situations, the more quickly it will expire from overexposure.

Keep up the good work!

chuck b. said...

(Fox News dot com has a pretty wacked out lookin' picture of her up right now. Too funny.)

gj said...

All questions of her sanity and judgement aside, there is is this, from Article 1 Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution:

Section 6. The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place. (via TPM.)

Given that this is some kinda constitutional law blog, I'm surprised no one has mentioned this angle.

Mark said...

Maybe being so recognizable you can walk in without your pin is some sort of House status test. She failed it and that's what really pisses her off.

I get the sense she's all about style and nothing of substance.

Simon said...

First, this is a blog written by a conlaw prof. I don't think that qualifies it as a blawg, let alone a conlaw blawg.

Second, Art.I §6 protects McKinney from arrest during a session of Congress, not from being subsequently arrested for an offense that takes place during the session, which is precisely why the news reports of this incident say that capitol police will be filing charges when Congress next adjourns.

Elizabeth said...

PatCA: Why do you say there are exceptions? The only exceptions are... You answer your own question, Pat. I mean the members, exactly so. Let everyone who comes in the door go through security, including the congresspeople.

Tristram said...

"Did she punch him in the face or the arm? I think that makes a difference in whether or not its assault."

Gee, really?

I suggest you try out an experiment: Go punch a cop in the arm after refusing to obey his lawful orders three times. See if he, and the Judge agree that since it wasn't in the face, it doesn't really count as assault.

Let us know how it goes...

(Hmm, you think J.C. Watts could have gotten away with hitting a police officer? I mean, media wise?)

The Drill SGT said...

As I understand the offenses, and frankly my only exposure is their use within the UCMJ: Assault is the threat of force with the capability to carry it out. If a man in a wheelchair says, "I'm gonna kick your ass", that may not be assault. If he pulls a gun and says "I'm gonna shoot you" that's assault". Battery exists when an assault is completed. e.g. contact is made.

(from the expertlaw www site). Seems a layman's explanation of the terms below:

In the context of criminal law, "assault and battery" are typically components of a single offense. In tort law, "assault" and "battery" are separate, with an assault being an act which creates fear of an imminent battery, and the battery being an unlawful touching. Assault and battery are intentional torts, meaning that the defendant actually intends to put the plaintiff in fear of being battered, or intends to wrongfully touch the plaintiff. The wrongful touching need not inflict physical injury, and may be indirect (such as contact through a thrown stone, or spitting). This article describes the law of assault and battery as it is commonly applied, although the law may vary in any specific jurisdiction.

An assault invoves:

An intentional, unlawful threat or "offer" to cause bodily injury to another by force;
Under circumstances which create in the other person a well-founded fear of imminent peril;
Where there exists the apparent present ability to carry out the act if not prevented.
Note that an assault can be completed even if there is no actual contact with the plaintiff, and even if the defendant had no actual ability to carry out the apparent threat. For example, a defendant who points a realistic toy gun at the plaintiff may be liable for assault, even though the defendant was fifty feet away from the plaintiff and had no actual ability to inflict harm from that distance.

A battery is the willful or intentional touching of a person against that person’s will by another person, or by an object or substance put in motion by that other person. Please note that an offensive touching can constitute a battery even if it does not cause injury, and could not reasonably be expected to cause injury. A defendant who emphatically pokes the plaintiff in the chest with his index finger to emphasize a point may be culpable for battery (although the damages award that results may well be nominal). A defendant who spits on a plaintiff, even though there is little chance that the spitting will cause any injury other than to the plaintiff's dignity, has committed a battery.

In order to be liable for an assault or battery, the defendant must lack privilege to assault or batter the plaintiff. The following are examples of "privilege":

Police Conduct
A police officer is privileged to apply the threat of force, or if necessary to apply actual force, in order to effect a lawful arrest. A defendant who suffers injury as the result of reasonable force exerted by the police to effect a lawful arrest will not be able to sustain a lawsuit against the arresting officers for assault or battery.

Balfegor said...

Re: gj's point:

Section 6. The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place. (via TPM.)

Arguably this is breach of the peace. On the other hand, it may be "going to and returning from [attendance at a session of her respective house]" -- the language doesn't indicate that she must actually be in a session of the House -- so if assaulting a police officer is not a breach of the peace, then perhaps she is covered by this provision.

Ann Althouse said...

First, I hate the word "blawg" and I hate the attempt to get lawprofs to stay in their lawprof box. I'll blog about whatever I want. Comments about what my failure to blog about something means are usually lame.

Second, the constitutional clause you're pointing to doesn't mean anything near what you think it means, and even on the text alone, there's that "breach of the peace" and felony exception. In fact, that clause was interpreted long ago to refer only to civil arrest -- an old fashioned thing -- not to criminal cases at all.

Drew W said...

I awoke bleary-eyed this morning and started (as usual) channel surfing. Passing C-SPAN, I saw Harry Belafonte and stopped. He was making an impassioned defense -- but of whom? Cindy Sheehan? Hugo Chavez? Cesar Chavez? Nope. It was Rep. Cynthia McKinney. And behind him at the press conference were lots of serious-looking people and even some children bearing signs, one of which said (I think) “Was Cynthia A Target?” You understand now why I wasn’t entirely sure I’d actually woken up. How could all these people be assembled -- with straight faces -- to express solidarity with the loopy, brawl-prone Cynthia McKinney?

But what really galled me is that these people were all down in DC, oblivious to the fact that in New York, Naomi Campbell’s Blackberry was the victim of a brutal assault by the forehead of Campbell’s maid. Where are their priorities?

PatCA said...

It was my understanding they all did go through security, but wearing the lapel pin meant they did not have to undergo the further measures that civilians would be subject to. I don't think there is is a free pass for members.

brylin said...

What about the all-black DC jury?

Dusty said...

Members do not have to go through security at all. Usually, neither does anyone accompanying a Member because nobody who works at the Capitol is gonna say "You can't do that" to a Member of Congress.

Steven said...

That Cynthia McKinney is not getting expelled in accordance with Article I section 5* for commmitting a felony against one of the people keeping the Members of Congress safe from attack is a shame and a disgrace.

The Capitol Hill Police should walk out on strike (whether such a strike is legal or not) until two-thirds the House votes to expell her. If it takes unprotected Congressmen getting hurt or killed by terrorists or common criminals while the police are on strike to convince the House to so expell, well, it does.

* Second clause: Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member.

Maxine Weiss said...

She's the Black Zsa-Zsa Gabor.

Peace, Maxine

The Cranky Insomniac said...

"If you don't wear your pin, you don't get in!"

More at

knoxgirl said...

Oh dear, I watched the press conference where she made the "Me...a Female...Black... Congresswoman!" comment. It made me squirm I was so uncomfortable. Embarassing. How can anyone, post-9/11, complain even the slightest bit about an officer who is only carrying out duties that help to keep them alive, ESPECIALLY a congressperson.

..."Naomi Campbell’s Blackberry was the victim of a brutal assault by the forehead of Campbell’s maid...."

Being a supermodel is *hard* ! Naomi's life is apparently as difficult as Russell Crowe's.

Celebrity makes people sick.

Craig Ranapia said...

Are the Capitol Hill Police unionized? Forget about charging her with assault, I'd have my union rep and a good lawyer suing everyone in sight - and make sure a condition of any settlement is serious psychiatric counselling for McKinney. Am I the only person who thinks "undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic" every time she makes the news?

Simon said...

The problem with what Steve and Craig advocate is that it is absolutely improper to give the capitol police a role in the selection of members of the Congress. The House may expel a member, but if the voters wish, they can (and in at least one case, have) re-elect the errant member. Suggesting that the capitol police effectively impeach a member of Congress is simply beyond the pale.

Craig Ranapia said...


Um, I don't know where you got the idea I was advocating the Capitol Police "effectively impeach" a Member of Congress. I do think the Capitol Police have every right to make it clear that they are not Ruritatian vassals who can be smacked around and publicly abused at will by a paranoiac despot.

If the Capitol Police are unionised, don't you think their representatives have a duty to defend the health and safety of their members? Putting partisanship aside, and even my personal views of Rep. McKinney, she seems to have a pattern of abusive and intimidatory misconduct toward Capitol Police officers - as well as flouting the security requirements that apply to the thousands of people who work and visit Congress every day - and it needs to stop.

Sorry, Simon, but I live and work in the real world and if I treated anyone at my workplace like this I'd be facing serious disciplinary action.

Pat Patterson said...

At least Rep. McKinney didn't claim that the J-E-W-S were out get her as her father,State Representative Billy McKinney had claimed years ago.

Thorley Winston said...

The Capitol Hill Police should walk out on strike (whether such a strike is legal or not) until two-thirds the House votes to expell her. If it takes unprotected Congressmen getting hurt or killed by terrorists or common criminals while the police are on strike to convince the House to so expell, well, it does.

It will never happen for three reasons.

One, the Capitol Hill Police are professionals that realize that an illegal strike that puts lives at risk is a gross overreaction to McKinney’s ongoing foolishness.

Two, the GOP controlled House has better things to do than try to help out Democrats by removing someone who is as much an embarrassment to her own Party as she is to the House of Representatives.

Three, as expulsion would require the support of a number of Democratic Representatives, it would fail because there are not enough Democrats who have the integrity to take on a “Female...Black... Congresswoman” for fear of being burned by the same race card they’ve been playing for forty years.

Simon said...

"Sorry, Simon, but I live and work in the real world and if I treated anyone at my workplace like this I'd be facing serious disciplinary action."

You're being tripped up by the assumption that Congress works like any other employer. It doesn't, and shouldn't. What you're advocating IS giving the Capitol police an improper role; you advocate a strike of capitol police until there is "is serious psychiatric counselling for McKinney" - that is, capitol police force counselling on a member of Congress. Steve went even further: he advocates ("[t]he Capitol Hill Police should walk out on strike (whether such a strike is legal or not) until two-thirds the House votes to expell her") that the capitol police blackmail should blackmail the United States Congress into expelling a member. It is an extraordinary thing for Congress to expell your member of Congress who you voted for, but for them to do so at the behest of their police force is not a road I think we should do in this country.

Don't get me wrong. I think the woman is a slimebag who ought to be arrrested and charged with the full force of the law. But I will not support what you and Steve advocate.