Rick Renzi Legal Battle Sputters to an End

Supreme Court decision is latest, likely last, blow to long-running legal case

Former Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi lost his latest legal battle in a long-running corruption case. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell)
Former Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi lost his latest legal battle in a long-running corruption case. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell)
Posted October 2, 2017 at 4:19pm

The Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear former Rep. Rick Renzi’s appeal of his fraud, racketeering and public corruption conviction in a long-running legal battle that sought to question the process of how he was prosecuted.

The Arizona Republican was convicted in 2013 of 17 out of 32 counts in a federal corruption trial. The felonies included extortion, conspiracy, insurance fraud and money laundering during his time representing the state’s 1st congressional district. He served a three year sentence and was released from prison in January.

[Former Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi Convicted in Corruption Case]

A co-defendant in the case, James Sandlin, was convicted of 13 felony offenses that included conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion and money laundering.

Prosecutors said during the trial that Renzi tried in 2005 to use his influence as a lawmaker to profit from a federal land exchange that involved property owned by Sandlin, a real estate investor.

Sandlin owed Renzi $700,000 in payments from their business dealings, according to the Justice Department. Renzi promised to support a land exchange that he would profit from for a mining operation if the buyer also bought Sandlin’s property to pay back the debt.

Renzi also engaged in insurance fraud by diverting premiums to fund his Congressional campaign from 2001 to 2003 and provided false statements, the government said. He did not seek re-election in 2008, the year after his family business was raided by the FBI.

Upon his indictment in 2008, Renzi maintained his innocence but resigned from the House Intelligence Committee while he faced the charges.

[Appeals Court Rejects Renzi’s Bid for Re-Hearing]

Renzi’s long-running legal battle over the appeals process includes a U.S. Court of Appeals decision to uphold his convictions in 2014, where a three-judge panel wrote “Congressmen may write the law, but they are not above the law.”

That panel rejected Renzi’s contention that prosecutors violated his constitutional protections of the Speech and Debate privilege, which is meant to shield lawmakers from prosecution while they conduct legislative work.

Also in 2014, the federal appeals court rejected Renzi’s request for a third hearing in his corruption case, in which House lawyers argued “alters the fabric of our constitutional structure.”