Renzi Says Justice Department Has Violated Attorney-client Privilege On Calls

Attorneys for Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), who has been indicted on 35 federal corruption charges, filed a motion today asking a federal judge to exclude from trial a series of "at least 50" cell phone calls by Renzi that were recorded by FBI agents.

Renzi's legal teams says that the calls should be privileged under attorney-client privilege, as well as the Speech or Debate Clause, a constiutional privilege that protects lawmakers and aides from legal action for legislative activities. Renzi is not raising a Speech or Debate claim on these intercepted calls yet.

"These privileged calls include conversations between Congressman Renzi and  his criminal defense counsel and an attorney representing him in a Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) proceeding. The privileged calls reflect discussions regarding  legal strategy and core work product, including the direction of the investigation, witness interviews, DOJ strategy, Congressman Renzi’s recollection of relevant issues,  and legal advice regarding theories of prosecution and applicable defenses," Renzi's lawyers wrote. They are asking that the audio files and transcripts of the calls should be returned to Renzi's control and a protective order should be granted to prevent prosecutors or anyone else from reviewing the calls.

The Justice Dept. has alleged that Renzi concealed his personal financial interest on a federal land transfer, as well as engaging in insurance fraud against clients of a firm he owned.

FBI agents obtained a court order to intercept 30 days of Renzi's cell phone calls on Oct. 26, 2006, just days before the mid-term elections. Renzi was already the subject of newspaper reports that he was under federal investigation for his role in the land transfer, and Renzi had just obtained a criminal-defense attorney to represent him in any criminal probe from that matter.

As part of the discovery from the Justice Dept. in Renzi's criminal case, government lawyers have turned over transcripts from at least 12 Renzi phone calls to his co-defendants, James Sandin and Andrew Beardall.

A government "taint team" has reviewed some of the Renzi calls to determine if they were privileged and should not be used by prosecutors, but Renzi's lawyers have challenged some of the finds of that team.