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Grand jury declines to indict Rep. McKinney

Investigation of alleged assault is finished, U.S. attorney says

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Rep. Cynthia McKinney smiles with her lawyer after the grand jury's decision.

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Georgia
Rep. Cynthia McKinney

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A grand jury has declined to indict Rep. Cynthia McKinney who was accused of punching a Capitol Police officer in March.

The grand jury's decision ends the investigation into the incident, according to U.S. Attorney Kenneth Wainstein.

The March 29 altercation occurred at a security checkpoint in a congressional office building after officer Paul McKenna, a three-year veteran of the force, failed to recognize the six-term Georgia Democrat and tried to stop her from bypassing a metal detector.

Members of Congress are allowed to go around the detectors. However, they are supposed to wear pins that identify them as representatives or senators. McKinney acknowledged she was not wearing her pin.

According to an incident report filed by Capitol Police last month, McKinney "physically assaulted" McKenna, hitting him in the chest with a "closed fist."

After hearing testimony from at least four congressional aides who saw the incident, the grand jury declined to return an indictment, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney's office.

No further details were given. Grand jury proceedings generally are kept secret.

McKinney said Friday that she was "relieved that this unfortunate incident is behind me."

"I accept today's grand jury finding of 'no probable cause' as right and just and the proper resolution of the case," she said in a statement.

Wainstein said he respected the grand jury's 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," Wainstein said in a statement.

"This is a tremendously difficult job, and it is one that officer McKenna and his colleagues perform with the utmost professionalism and dignity."

Capitol Police officers, however, viewed the grand jury's decision with "extreme disappointment," said Lou Cannon, president of the District of Columbia Fraternal Order of Police, a union representing Capitol Police officers.

"I've already received numerous calls as this broke about people wondering why they would want to be a law enforcement officer in the nation's Capitol anymore," he said. "We have to review this and see what kind of message it sends."

McKinney has never publicly discussed the details of what happened between her and the officer, citing the possibility of criminal charges.

After initially insisting the incident was an example of racial profiling, McKinney later apologized on the floor of the House, saying, "I am sorry this misunderstanding happened at all. I regret its escalation."

James Myart, an attorney representing McKinney, questioned the police version of the incident from the outset, saying Capitol Police initially apologized to McKinney.

He also questioned why Capitol Police didn't arrested McKinney on the spot if she really had assaulted an officer.

Of the grand jury proceeding, Myart told reporters in April, "I would think that they would recognize that there simply is not enough evidence here to even bring an indictment."

In the midst of the controversy over her altercation with the officer, McKinney drew an opponent in the July 18 Democratic primary: Hank Johnson, an attorney and two-term member of the DeKalb County Commission.

McKinney, 51, represents Georgia's 4th Congressional District, a majority-black, Democratic district on the east side of metro Atlanta.

First elected in 1992, she was defeated in a 2002 Democratic primary but made a comeback in 2004. She won back her seat after the candidate who had defeated her two years earlier decided to run for the U.S. Senate.

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