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Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Corruption Conviction of Rick Renzi Affirmed

(CN) - Former Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi "abused the trust of this nation," the 9th Circuit said Thursday, affirming the disgraced lawmaker's prison sentence for corruption.

A federal jury in Tucson found Renzi guilty in 2013 of 17 felony offenses, including conspiracy, honest-services wire fraud, extortion under color of official right, racketeering, money laundering and making false statements to insurance regulators. The jury also found James Sandlin, Renzi's former business partner, guilty of 13 similar offenses.

During a 24-day trial last summer, prosecutors claimed that Renzi, who also operated an insurance business, exerted improper influence as a lawmaker to push through a public-land exchange for a copper mine. The proceeds from that deal were allegedly supposed to help Sandlin repay Renzi a $700,000 debt. The government said Renzi committed insurance fraud as well by using his clients' insurance premiums to fund his first congressional campaign in 2001.

The Republican served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2003 to 2009.

He appealed his conviction, and the accompanying three-year sentence, alongside Sandlin who got 18 months.

A three-judge panel with the 9th Circuit found Thursday that the evidence against the former partners was sufficient in all respects.

Among several arguments on appeal, Renzi claimed that he couldn't be guilty because he had not received a "thing of value" in exchange for his promise to influence the land deal's movement through Congress, instead calling it merely "an economic exchange."

The appellate panel rejected this, finding that the money "clouded his judgment in performing his official duties and deprived his constituents of the honest services of their elected representative."

"The Constitution and our citizenry entrust Congressmen with immense power," Judge Richard Tallman wrote for the panel. "Former Congressman Renzi abused the trust of this Nation, and for doing so, he was convicted by a jury of his peers."

Renzi is represented by Mayer Brown and Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, D.C.

"We are disappointed with the court's ruling," Mayer Brown attorney Kelly Kramer said. "We intend to seek further appellate review."

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