New hearings set for Renzi case

A federal magistrate judge has scheduled hearings in June to determine whether former Rep. Rick Renzi's (R-Ariz.) attorney-client privileges were violated when the FBI wiretapped his conversations as part of a corruption investigation.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco set the hearings for June 17, 18 and 19 after listening to some of the phone calls in question. Renzi's attorneys argue that the charges against him should be thrown out because the FBI unlawfully recorded at least four conversations between the Arizona Republican and his legal counsel.

Prosecutors counter that they didn't use any information from the privileged phone calls to make their case, and that the June hearing does not mean Renzi's argument has any merit.

"This is a routine evidentiary hearing on a motion," said Department of Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney. Renzi faces trial in September. The Justice Department has accused him of promising to support legislation for a land deal that allegedly netted him more than $700,000. He is facing several criminal counts, including conspiracy, money-laundering, extortion and insurance fraud.

Renzi's legal team also contends that the FBI violated separation-of-powers protections when they caught conversations between several members of Congress and Renzi on tape, as well as discussions about legislative matters. The government disputes that assertion. The judge has yet to weigh in on that argument.

- Susan Crabtree