TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A jury has begun hearing testimony in the trial of former U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi.
The Arizona Republican is accused of siphoning money from clients of his insurance agency to pay for personal and political expenses. He’s also accused of trying to engineer a land swap for personal gain.
A jury was chosen Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tucson, and testimony began Wednesday after lawyers made opening statements.
Federal prosecutor David Harbach told jurors that Renzi lied and schemed to benefit himself and co-defendant James Sandlin in the land swap part of the case.
“Mr. Renzi, a U.S. congressman, sold out his office,” Harbach said, according to The Arizona Republic newspaper.
Renzi didn’t extort anybody or solicit any bribes, defense lawyer Kelly Kramer said. “The evidence is going to show they got this case horribly wrong.”
Rather, Renzi was trying to help protect the water source of Fort Huachuca, an Army base, by seeking to include Cochise County grazing property owned by the associate in a land swap, the defense lawyer said.
Renzi is charged with 32 counts of extortion, conspiracy and other crimes.
He represented the sprawling 1st Congressional District from 2003 to 2009. Already politically damaged goods, he chose not to seek re-election in 2008.
The trial is expected to last two months.