HOUSTON (AP) _ Former U.S. Rep. Craig Washington proclaimed his innocence Friday to a charge alleging he fired a gun at an 18-year-old's car as the teen was driving on a downtown Houston street.
Washington, 66, was indicted Thursday on a charge of aggravated assault with a gun, a second-degree felony. Taylor Brooks, 18, told police that three bullets struck his car as he was driving away from a confrontation with Washington on Jan. 1. Another 18-year-old also was in the car, police said.
Surrounded by about 50 friends and colleagues at a news conference Friday, Washington said he was "absolutely" innocent, but declined to give details of the incident.
"I will say what I have to say one time," he said, "and that's on the witness stand, under oath in front of 12 people selected from this community. And that's the way the system ought to work."
Washington declined to speak before the grand jury before he was indicted. An arraignment is scheduled for May 9, Washington said. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, but Washington said he was certain he'd be cleared.
"In this country, I'm presumed innocent and that presumption of innocence is all I need, the only thing I need, to carry me to where I need to be," he said. "Be there when it's over and I'll talk to you about the details."
Washington will not represent himself and said he is assembling a legal team. He said he has not sought out any help from Mayor Bill White or any other public figures.
"I don't want any special treatment," he said. "I am not entitled to any special treatment. I want to show that the system works for the average citizen. That's all I am."
Washington, a Democrat, was a Texas state representative from 1973-1982 and served in the state senate from 1983-1989. He won a special election to represent the 18th Congressional District in 1989 and served until 1995. Washington was the attorney for Tyrone Williams, the truck driver sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants during a failed 2003 smuggling attempt.
Washington said he hopes that his fame will draw attention to the case.
"I see an opportunity for us as lawyers to teach the citizens of this community that first, they don't need to be afraid, because the system works," he said. "I believe that the system works and I will stand trial in this courthouse because I know the system works."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.