TUCSON, Ariz. – A federal judge on Monday sentenced former U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi to three years in prison for convictions on public corruption, money laundering and other charges.
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.”
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.
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 counts.
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.
The prosecution wanted up to 12 years in prison for Renzi. The defences asked for probation.
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.
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 Sandlin, a former Renzi business associate.
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, 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.