Rick Renzi, Disgraced Former Arizona Congressman, Not Immune From Prosecution, Ninth Circuit Says

Rick Renzi, the disgraced former Arizona congressman, can be prosecuted for his alleged crimes related to a corrupt land-swap deal, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has decided.

The 45-page ruling issued today could have an impact on the President and other members of Congress, because Renzi had appealed to the Speech and Debate Clause as a means to derail his prosecution. The Clause, much like the immunity claimed by state legislator Scott Bundgaard after he and his girlfriend were detained by police, prevents members of the executive branch from arrest in many cases while doing their work.

The Ninth Circuit Court panel decided that even though the Speech and Debate Clause "is a privilege that "has enabled reckless men to slander and even destroy others with impunity," it doesn't "make Members of Congress supercitizens, immune from criminal responsibility."

       The ruling also reinstates one of the racketeering charges against Renzi that a lower court had dismissed.

New Times writer Sarah Fenske, in the above linked article, broke the news about Renzi's dirty scheme with developer James Sandlin as the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office was looking into it. Here's how Fenske described the corrupt -- and likely criminal -- act:

Renzi, who is currently running for a third term representing a district that stretches from Flagstaff to southeast Arizona, sold off a half-interest in his real estate investment business to a fellow investor, Sandlin, just before filing to run for Congress for the first time in 2002.

Sandlin paid $200,000 cash. And within months, Renzi plowed all his profits into his congressional campaign -- an infusion that allowed Renzi to outspend his opponents and squeak into office with 49 percent of the vote.Renzi was a fool for thinking he could get away with this. So it makes sense that he was foolish enough to believe he was actually immune from prosecution for his corruption.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.

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