Renzi Scores a Win Over Prosecutors on Transcripts

Posted March 2, 2009 at 6:43pm

An Arizona judge last week ordered federal prosecutors to turn over grand jury records to ex-Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), giving the former House Member a small victory in his fight against federal corruption charges.

Renzi faces a 44-count indictment that alleges he used his legislative position to push a land deal to benefit a former business partner and also embezzled money from his insurance firm to finance his first campaign.

The former Arizona lawmaker has filed to dismiss that indictment — initially filed in February 2008 and then supplemented in November — arguing that federal prosecutors repeatedly violated the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause.

“The government has refused to provide Congressman Renzi with the grand jury record relating to the public corruption counts even though Congressman Renzi has come forward with evidence that the government violated the Speech or Debate Clause by presenting exhibits that refer to and discuss Congressman Renzi’s legislative acts,— Renzi attorney Brian Heberlig wrote in a January motion.

Renzi has also alleged that federal prosecutors violated the Speech or Debate Clause when investigators tapped the then-lawmaker’s cell phone.

In a court order dated Feb. 25, Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco ruled federal prosecutors must disclose “relevant transcripts— of grand jury testimony to Renzi and his attorneys. In addition, the government must detail the instructions federal prosecutors gave the second grand jury about the Speech or Debate Clause.

“This Court has previously determined that, at least in some instances, it is necessary for the Court to look behind the face of the indictment to determine whether the presentation of evidence to a grand jury in violation of the Speech or Debate Clause resulted in a decision by the grand jury to indict,— Velasco wrote in his decision. “Petitioner has sufficiently demonstrated a particularized need to review the grand jury transcripts because grounds may exist to dismiss the indictment because protected material may have been presented to the grand jury.—

“The determination of what material is protected under the Speech or Debate Clause and whether or not the grand jury relied on protected material in its decision to indict is highly fact dependent, and cannot necessarily be gleaned from the face of the indictment,— Velasco continued.

Renzi is scheduled to go on trial in early June in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

An earlier March trial date was canceled at the request of federal prosecutors and attorneys for both Renzi and his co-defendants, who sought more time to complete pretrial motions.