Leaders Seek Dismissal of Most Charges Against Renzi

Posted November 25, 2008 at 12:18pm

House leaders from both sides of the aisle called Tuesday for the dismissal of most of the corruption charges against Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), asserting that federal investigators’ use of a wiretap violated the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause.

House General Counsel Irvin Nathan filed the request in a friend-of-the-court brief Tuesday on behalf of the “Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group,” composed of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

According to the 64-page document, the leaders assert that a federal wiretap of Renzi’s cell phone violated the Speech or Debate protections and should therefore lead to the dismissal of 28 of the 44 counts in the indictment against the Arizonan.

“The House does not file this memorandum to protect Congressman Renzi from criminal investigation or prosecution; to suggest that he or any other Member of Congress is above the law or immune … or to suggest that no Member of Congress may ever be subject to a Title III wiretap,” reads the brief, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona Tucson Division.

“Rather, the Leadership Group contends that the Department’s significant Speech or Debate violations during the investigation of Congressman Renzi require a declaration that the Title III wiretap in this case violated the Constitution and the suppression of all information gathered through or as a result of that wiretap would have required dismissal of the original indictment, without prejudice and require the dismissal … of the superseding indictment,” the document continued.

Renzi himself filed several motions in October arguing the indictment violates Speech or Debate protections and should be dismissed.

Federal prosecutors have denied those accusations and filed a motion accusing Renzi of distorting the Speech or Debate Clause to avoid standing trial.

Renzi is alleged to have used his legislative position to push a land deal to benefit a former business partner who owed him money. Renzi also is alleged to have embezzled money from his family’s insurance firm to finance his first campaign.

Renzi, who is scheduled to go on trial in late March 2009, did not seek re-election to his 1st district seat. He has pleaded not guilty to an initial indictment and is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 4 for an arraignment on the superseding indictment filed earlier this month.