Prosecutors Get Preliminary Victory in Case Against Ex-Rep. Renzi

Posted February 19, 2010 at 2:34pm

A federal judge Thursday handed prosecutors a preliminary victory in the corruption case against ex-Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), when he denied Renzi’s request to dismiss public corruption charges against him and ruled that a Justice Department’s indictment does not violate the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause.

U.S. District Judge David Bury similarly denied Renzi’s motion to suppress evidence, including wiretapped conservations, which the former Arizona lawmaker argued violated the Speech or Debate Clause, which protects Members of Congress from prosecution for actions related to their legislative duties. Bury also denied Renzi’s motion to dismiss federal prosecutors.

But Bury did approve a recommendation from Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco to divide charges against Renzi and his co-conspirators into three separate trials.

Renzi is charged in a 48-count indictment that alleges the former Member used his legislative position to push a land deal to benefit a former business partner and also embezzled money from his insurance firm to finance his first campaign.

Under Bury’s decision Thursday, one trial will focus on the alleged land deal, another on the embezzlement charges and a third on a falsified campaign contribution. Only the first two trials would involve Renzi.

Attorneys for Renzi and his co-defendants are scheduled to appear in court Monday for a status hearing. The trial had been scheduled to begin in March but could be reset on Monday.