Former Flagstaff Representative Rick Renzi was among a flurry of 73 pardons issued by President Donald Trump on his last day in office.
The Republican and former congressman had been campaigning for a pardon since 2019 after he was convicted and served time for corruption and fraud.
Despite the conviction, Renzi had maintained his innocence. In a statement, he thanked Trump for pardoning him.
“After almost 14 years of fighting for my innocence, it took a real man of action and courage in President Trump to finally relieve me of the horrific deceit of being wrongly convicted by a Department of Justice that engaged in witness tampering, illegal wiretapping, and gross prosecutorial misconduct,” Renzi said in the statement.
From 2003 to 2009, Renzi represented Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, which included large swaths of northern and eastern Arizona encompassing Flagstaff, Prescott and Winslow.
In 2013, Renzi was convicted by a Tucson jury for corruption including wire fraud, conspiracy, extortion and lying to insurance regulators.
According to the prosecutors, Renzi had used his position in Congress to enrich himself and help fund his 2002 political campaign by embezzling money from an insurance company and orchestrating a federal land swap.
Renzi appealed his conviction all the way to the Supreme Court, but the court decided against hearing the case, upholding his conviction in 2015. Renzi was sent to prison in February of that year and was released in January of 2017.
In pardoning Renzi, the Trump administration cited support from several current and former Republican members of Congress, including Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar and Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma.
"[Renzi's] constituents considered him a strong advocate for better housing, quality education, and improved healthcare — especially for the underprivileged and Native Americans," a statement from the Trump administration regarding the pardon read. "He is the father of 12 children and a loving and devoted husband."
During Renzi’s campaign for a presidential pardon, he alleged that investigators illegally wiretapped conversations between Renzi and his attorneys, concealed evidence and introduced false testimony into the trial.
That campaign also included the production of a short documentary arguing his case and a letter to the Justice Department asking for an investigation into the allegations of misconduct by prosecutors.
“Because I refused to plead guilty to a crime I did not commit, a prosecutor even resorted to suborning perjury in order to secure a fraudulent conviction,” Renzi said in a statement. “I went to prison and was wrongfully incarcerated rather than cower and plead to the DOJ fabricated narrative that I was guilty.”
In 2019, a spokesperson for the convicted congressman had drawn comparisons between the investigation of Renzi and Trump’s own accusations of a “witch hunt” by the FBI. At the time, Trump was claiming the FBI had illegally spied on his 2016 presidential campaign, although there was no evidence to support that allegation.