Idaho Sen. McKenzie's wife being investigated

dpopkey@idahostatesman.comApril 24, 2013 

The Ada County Sheriff's Office is conducting a criminal inquiry regarding Renee McKenzie's alleged claims to inmates that she is an attorney. McKenzie's husband, Curt, is a lawyer and Republican state senator from Nampa.

Early this month, U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill issued an order suggesting that Renee McKenzie might have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law on behalf of Lance Wood, a murderer serving a life sentence. Practicing law without a license can be charged as misdemeanor contempt of court, punishable by up six months in jail and a $500 fine.

Sen. McKenzie declined comment Tuesday, except to confirm that his wife is no longer working at his Boise law office. Renee McKenzie, who worked as a legal assistant, did not reply to a voice message.

Sheriff's spokesman Andrea Dearden said Tuesday that the investigation was prompted by new information uncovered by detectives investigating an unrelated matter at the state prison complex south of Boise. Dearden said inmates other than Wood allege that Renee McKenzie said she was a lawyer.

Renee McKenzie worked as a legal assistant for Wood from November to Feb. 14, when Winmill withdrew his order allowing her to assist Wood in a civil lawsuit alleging a female guard sexually harassed him. A December trial ended in a mistrial. Sen. McKenzie's law firm has not and does not represent Wood.

In his April 8 order, Winmill said Renee McKenzie engaged in an "inappropriate" relationship with Wood, who tortured and murdered a gay theater student in Utah in 1988.

Wood and Renee McKenzie spoke for more than 100 hours on the phone between December and February, according to Department of Correction documents. McKenzie told Wood that she loved him and wanted to spend the rest of her life with him in calls monitored by prison officials.

Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics

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