A federal appeals court reinstated the racketeering charge against former Republican Congressman Richard “Rick” G. Renzi of Arizona. Renzi, the former state co-chair of Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, was charged in 2008 with multiple counts of corruption arising from land deals in the state.
The criminal charges are still pending against him and the appeal by federal prosecutors arises out of a decision by U.S. District Judge David Bury in Arizona to dismiss the racketeering charge.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the charge in an unpublished memo Thursday. In addition, the appeals court rejected Renzi’s effort to invoke the Constitution’s speech or debate clause to preclude his prosecution for alleged us of his public office to benefit himself rather than his constituents. Judge Richard Tallman wrote that the speech or debate clause allows members to “slander” others with impunity. But the Supreme Court has made clear that it does not make members of Congress “immune from criminal responsibility.”
On the racketeering charge, the panel held that the government met the standard to allow allegations Renzi used Patriot Insurance to commit multiple monetary transaction in property derived for illegal activity.
The court noted that the government’s contention that Renzi engaged in extortion and mail fraud violations serve as the illegal activity required in the racketeering charge.
Renzi was indicted on 35 counts in 2008, stemming from allegations of corruption in a land-swap deal. After an FBI raid on his family business in 2007 he announced he would not seek reelection in 2008.