Renzi corruption case now rests in hands of the jury

2013-06-07T00:00:00Z 2013-06-07T08:02:38Z Renzi corruption case now rests in hands of the juryThe Associated Press The Associated Press
June 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

A federal court jury in Tucson is deliberating in a corruption case in which former Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi was accused of trying to engineer a federal land exchange to benefit himself and a business associate and of looting clients' premiums from his family insurance business.

The jury began deliberating Thursday after hearing legal instructions from U.S. District Judge David C. Bury, a day after attorneys gave closing arguments. The trial began May 7.

Renzi, a Republican, represented Arizona's 1st Congressional District from early 2003 until early 2009.

Word of the probe had leaked out, so Renzi was already damaged politically before the February 2008 indictment, and he did not seek re-election in 2008.

He faced 32 felony counts, including conspiracy, extortion, wire fraud, money laundering and other crimes.

Former Renzi business associate James Sandlin, one of three co-defendants originally charged with Renzi, stood trial with him.

Sandlin was charged with 27 counts in the land-swap part of the case, including wire fraud and conspiracy.

The indictment alleged that Renzi in 2005 held hostage possible swaps involving public land proposed as the site for a copper mine unless it included purchasing private land that Sandlin owned in Cochise County.

According to the indictment, an investment group agreed to pay $4.6 million for Sandlin's land, and Sandlin then paid Renzi $733,000 for his help. Sandlin had owed Renzi money from past business dealings involving land in Kingman.

The proposed copper mine remains just a proposal, though several current members of Arizona's congressional delegation continue to push for a land swap.

Charges in the other part of the case accused Renzi of siphoning off $400,000 from his family insurance agency in Sonoita for his personal and political benefit.

In closing arguments Wednesday, a lawyer for Renzi told jurors the government hadn't proved a case fabricated by the FBI. A prosecutor said Renzi engaged in corruption in both his business and elected office, The Arizona Republic reported.

"They're wrong," defense attorney Chris Niewoehner said of the prosecution, "and you know they're wrong. They want something they've been chasing for seven years. All you want is the truth."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino said Renzi conspired with others "in a pattern of racketeering."

The other two original co-defendants, both of whom formerly worked for Renzi's insurance agency, were charged only in the insurance part of the case.

A jury acquitted Andrew Beardall but convicted Dwayne Lequire of some of the charges against him. But Lequire's convictions were overturned on appeal.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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