The Supreme Court declined on Tuesday to hear an appeal from former Rep. Richard G. Renzi (R-Ariz.), clearing the way for the Department of Justice to prosecute him on corruption charges.
The justices refused without comment to hear Renzi’s appeal from a ruling last summer by the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which held that Renzi is not protected by the Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution. He had argued that he shouldn’t be prosecuted for anything linked to a legislative act.
Last year, as Main Justice reported, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit found that that Speech and Debate Clause does not make members of Congress “supercitizens” who are immune from criminal prosecution. The full 9th Circuit declined to reconsider the panel’s decision (see Main Justice’s report), prompting Renzi’s lawyers to try to persuade the Supreme Court to review the case.
Renzi, 53, was indicted nearly four years ago, accused of dozens of counts of fraud, money laundering, extortion and other crimes, as The New York Times reported at the time. Prosecutors charged that Renzi abused the power of his office by forcing constituents to buy land from a man who was his secret business partner in exchange for Renzi’s support for legislation. The partner then allegedly funneled $733,000 in proceeds to Renzi.
The legislation at issue never passed, and Renzi has denied wrongdoing. He did not seek re-election in 2008, the year he was a co-chairman of the Arizona campaign of Sen. John McCain in McCain’s unsuccessful presidential campaign.
Several others caught up in the Renzi episode have gone to trial, with mixed results, as The Arizona Republic reported in a detailed account of the proceedings last June.