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Lawyer for ex-Rep. Rick Renzi urges new trial

SEATTLE (AP) -- A lawyer for Rick Renzi told a federal appellate court on Tuesday that the former Arizona congressman should be acquitted or get a new trial after his convictions last year on public corruption and other charges.

A three-judge panel in Seattle heard arguments in Renzi's appeal, with the federal government arguing against acquittal or a new trial.

Last June, a federal jury in Arizona convicted Renzi 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.

Renzi was sentenced in December to three years in prison and was scheduled to start serving his term in January, but the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals allowed him to remain free on bail during his appeal.

Defense lawyer Dan Himmelfarb argued Tuesday that the government did not provide sufficient evidence to show extortion or bribery.

The government violated a constitutional clause by introducing evidence about legislative work, he said. Federal prosecutors took testimony from Renzi's former district director in violation of that protection, he added.

Stephan Oestreicher, a lawyer representing the government, countered that there was enough evidence to show extortion. He said testimony about the legislative work wasn't privileged, adding that it did not affect the verdict and there was overwhelming proof otherwise of Renzi's criminal intent.

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

He didn't run for re-election in 2008 while facing federal charges accusing him of using his office for personal financial gain through a proposed land exchange involving a co-defendant and of looting a family insurance business to help fund his 2002 campaign.

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 James Sandlin, a former Renzi business associate.

Defense lawyers argued in court papers that insurance convictions against Renzi should be reversed, because Renzi was not considered an insurer under the law. Prosecutors disagreed.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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