Prosecutor Characterizes Congress as a “Sanctuary for Crime”
This was too good to pass up, even if it’s a relatively dry Speech or Debate Clause issue. Retiring U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) has been indicted on 35 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion, money laundering and insurance fraud. I don’t know much about the case, but I love it when Congresscritters try and fall back on the Speech or Debate Clause to stave off prosecutions.
Renzi’s lawyers contend that he is protected from prosecution for any activities related to the legislative process. Prosecutors argue that promising future votes for shady federal land swaps isn’t a protected “legislative act.” Then comes the good part:
Prosecutors replied in court papers filed late last week that Renzi “distorts the intent and plain meaning” of the clause and argues in essence that he “is the fortunate denizen of a ‘sanctuary for crime.'”
In Related News: The Fourth Circuit just denied Democratic Congressman William “Cold Cash Is My Middle Name” Jefferson’s Speech or Debate Clause claim (PDF). The Court held that Jefferson was trying to apply the clause so broadly that it would be impossible to charge a congressman with a crime. His trial can now go forward, unless he appeals to the Supreme Court.
Incidentally, the good Democrats of New Orleans just handily helped him win the primary run-off; he is a shoo-in for re-election to the “sanctuary for crime.”