TUCSON, Ariz. — Former U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi was sentenced Monday to three years in prison for
public corruption, money laundering.
A federal jury in Tucson convicted him in June on 17 of 32 counts, including
wire fraud, conspiracy, extortion, racketeering, money laundering and making
false statements to insurance regulators. He was acquitted on the remaining
U.S. District Judge David C. Bury also sentenced Renzi co-defendant James
Sandlin to 18 months in prison, and ordered both men to pay fines. They are to
begin their prison terms in January.
“I’m not wise enough to know why good people do bad things — I think character
and avarice have something to do with it,” Bury said. “That’s what happened
here. Two good men committed bad acts.”
The U.S. Probation Office recommended that Renzi be sentenced to 33 months in
federal prison, be fined $20,000 and serve three years of supervised release.
Prosecutors said Renzi, 55, used his office for personal financial gain and
looted a family insurance business to help pay for his 2002 campaign. He was
acquitted on the remaining counts.
Renzi, a Republican, represented Arizona’s sprawling 1st Congressional District
from early 2003 until early 2009. He chose not to run for re-election in 2008
while facing the federal indictment.
The indictment charged that Renzi, while in office in 2005, held hostage
possible parcel swaps involving public land proposed as the site for an Arizona
copper mine unless it included purchasing private land owned by a former Renzi
business associate, James Sandlin.
According to the indictment, an investment group agreed to pay $4.6 million for
Sandlin’s land. He then paid Renzi $733,000 for his help.
Sandlin, 62, was convicted on 13 counts including conspiracy, wire fraud,
extortion and money laundering.
Last week, U.S. District Judge David Bury denied motions to reverse Renzi’s
convictions and grant him a new trial. Renzi’s lawyers had argued that the
evidence wasn’t enough to back up the jury’s verdict.