- Associated Press - Friday, January 6, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) - Former U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi of Arizona left federal prison Friday after serving three years for corruption, money laundering and other charges.

He was set free just ahead of his scheduled Saturday release date. Renzi’s attorney, Kelly B. Kramer, declined to comment on his client’s plans after prison and said he didn’t know any details of the former congressman’s life behind bars.

Renzi was convicted in 2013 of conspiring to use his congressional post to make companies buy his former business associate’s land so the associate could repay a debt to Renzi.

Prosecutors also said Renzi looted a family insurance business to help pay for his 2002 campaign, but he was not convicted of illegally using money from the firm. He was found guilty of filing false statements with regulators after failing to use premiums collected from nonprofit groups to buy policies.

Renzi represented Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, which stretches from the Arizona-Utah line to the outskirts of Tucson, from 2003 to 2009. He was credited with bringing federal dollars to the district, trying to improve housing on the Navajo Reservation and helping line up grants for a genetic research center in Flagstaff.

He didn’t seek re-election in 2008 while facing charges.

Renzi began serving his sentence at a federal prison in Morgantown, West Virginia, and completed it at a federal Bureau of Prisons facility in Washington, D.C.

Though he is nearly a free man and an appeals court has upheld his convictions, Renzi is pursuing a new trial in another appeal, alleging that a key witness against him changed the substance of his testimony after the FBI said he could be compensated for his cooperation.

Kramer said the purpose of the appeal is to clear his client’s name and seek justice after an unfair trial.

“We don’t believe in the United States that criminal convictions stand when the government violates those basic obligations,” Kramer said.

Renzi’s lawyers say prosecutors failed to disclose that the ex-congressman’s former associate who testified for the government was told he could receive payments. The attorneys say they learned about the possibility of a reward more than a year after Renzi started serving his sentence.

Prosecutors said other witnesses and evidence backed up the ex-associate’s testimony.

Renzi’s attorneys made similar arguments a year ago when they unsuccessfully sought a new trial. His latest appeal seeks to overturn that decision.

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Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/jacques-billeaud .

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