Federal Appeals Court Upholds Former Congressman Rick Renzi’s Conviction
A federal appeals court today upheld the conviction of former Republican Congressman for Arizona’s first district, Rick Renzi, on charges of extortion, fraud, conspiracy and racketeering. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports.
The main counts against the former congressman from Flagstaff relate to efforts by Resolution Copper to get some federal land it wanted near Superior for a mine. The testimony at his trial was that Renzi agreed to push a land swap to get Resolution the land — but only if the company would buy property in Cochise County owned by a former business partner who happened to owe him money.
When Resolution backed out, Renzi then attempted a similar deal with another company that needed federal land near Florence. In its ruling, the 9th Circuit rejected Renzi’s contention that his rights as a member of Congress were violated when prosecutors questioned his former staffers about his acts.
Appellate Judge Richard Tallman acknowledged that federal lawmakers are entitled to certain constitutional protections from being questioned about their official acts. And, that generally would extend to members of the congressman’s staff. But, Tallman said Renzi opened the door through his own claims of why he was pushing the land swap. The judge said that allowed prosecutors to then question Renzi’s staffers to rebut the congressman.
Renzi was found guilty of 17 counts last year, was sentenced to three years in prison but has not yet started serving his term. His attorney, Kelly Kramer, has promised further appeals.