Judge: Prosecutors Should Lose Access to Renzi Wiretap Information

Posted March 11, 2010 at 4:06pm

Federal prosecutors should lose access to information gained from federal wiretaps of ex-Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) because investigators unlawfully recorded privileged calls between the lawmaker and his attorneys, a federal judge said Thursday.

Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco recommended that federal wiretaps of Renzi should be suppressed as punishment for federal prosecutors’ mishandling of calls.

But Velasco also recommended denying Renzi’s motion to dismiss the case.

“As discussed above, dismissal is not appropriate because defendant has not, and will not, suffer substantial prejudice,” Velasco wrote. “The appropriate remedial action in this case is suppression of the privileged calls. Disqualification of the prosecutorial and investigative teams is not warranted.”

U.S. District Judge David Bury must decide whether to accept Velasco recommendations.

Renzi faces a 48-count indictment that alleges he used his legislative position to push a land deal to benefit co-defendant James Sandlin, a former business partner, and embezzled money from his insurance firm to finance his first campaign.

Last month, Bury ordered the case split into three separate trials: The March trial will focus on the land deal, another on the embezzlement charges and a third on an alleged falsified campaign contribution. Only the first two trials would involve Renzi.

In a series of rulings in February, Bury 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.

Renzi has appealed those rulings. He is currently set to face trial March 16.