Judge Throws Out Wiretaps in Renzi Case

Posted June 7, 2010 at 5:11pm

Federal prosecutors must forfeit federal wiretaps of ex-Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) because investigators mishandled privileged calls between the former lawmaker and his attorneys, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge David Bury adopted a March recommendation from Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco, who is overseeing pretrial motions in the case against Renzi and his alleged co-conspirators, including arguments over evidence.

In a June 2 opinion released Friday, Bury ruled that government investigators unlawfully recorded privileged calls between Renzi and his attorneys and that the recordings should be suppressed as punishment.

“The Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that by recording attorney-client privileged conversations the Government seized evidence beyond that authorized by the wiretap, which required such evidence to be minimized, and that by this conduct the Government acted unreasonably in executing the wiretap,” Bury wrote.

He later added, “The Government’s conduct, in its totality, warrants a more significant sanction than just suppressing the privileged evidence. The Court suppresses the wiretap.”

But Bury, echoing Velasco’s recommendation, refused to dismiss the case outright.

Renzi faces a 48-count indictment that alleges he used his legislative position to push a land deal to benefit co-defendant James Sandlin, a former business partner, and embezzled money from his insurance firm to finance his first campaign.

Bury previously ordered the case split into three separate trials. The first, scheduled to begin this month, will focus on the land deal. Another will take up the embezzlement charges, and a third will involve an alleged falsified campaign contribution. Only the first two trials would involve Renzi.