Judge Rejects Arizona’s Renzi’s Bid to Dismiss Criminal Case

February 22, 2010

A federal judge dealt a blow to former U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi in a case in which he faces money laundering, insurance fraud, racketeering and other charges.

U.S. District Judge Richard Bury rejected the former three-term Republican lawmaker’s request to dismiss his case based on his claim that the government violated a clause of the U.S. Constitution that grants members of Congress protection for their legislative acts.

The judge denied a similar claim by Renzi to throw out evidence that the government gathered in wiretapping his conversations with aides.

Renzi, who represented Arizona’s sprawling 1st Congressional District before declining to seek re-election in 2008, is accused of engineering a swap of federally owned mining land to benefit himself and a former business partner, who is also charged in the case.

Renzi also is accused of raiding his family insurance company’s accounts to fund an election campaign. In all, he faces 48 charges. Renzi and three other men in the case have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

Renzi did win one partial victory in the series of rulings. Although the judge didn’t dismiss the entire racketeering charge against him, Bury did throw out one element of that charge.

The judge also split up the case against Renzi and the three other men into three trials, leaving Renzi to face two trials.

One would be on allegations that Renzi engineered the land swap to benefit himself and former business partner James Sandlin, who would be tried alongside Renzi.

Renzi’s other trial would be on the insurance allegations. Two other men, Andrew Beardall and Dwayne Lequire, would be tried along with Renzi on the insurance charges.

A third trial on a charge of making a campaign contribution in the name of another person would have only one defendant, Sandlin.

The last trial date, set before the case was split up into three trials, is March 16. It’s unclear how the latest rulings will affect the trial date.

Laura Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, declined to comment on the rulings. A message left for Reid Weingarten, one of Renzi’s attorneys, wasn’t immediately returned.

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