A second plea deal after a judge rejected the first as too lenient will cost an accused swindler $4.1 million more than first proposed.
It comes in a case where both sides had accused Attorney General Mark Shurtleff of unfairly meddling amid political pressure, and Shurtleff in turn said a bribe was offered.
Marc Sessions Jenson, 48, of Holladay, pleaded no contest Thursday to three felony counts of selling unregistered securities in a plea bargain accepted by 3rd District Judge Robin Reese.
As in the first rejected deal, Jenson an ex-felon accused of bilking millions of dollars each from three victims will face no prison time and must pay a $15,000 fine to the state. And if he commits no crimes in the next three years and meets other deal terms, the conviction will be erased.
But this time, the deal also calls for Jenson to pay two victims a combined $4.1 million in restitution (a third victim said he has already received restitution). Reese had rejected the first settlement because it did not clearly order restitution. The judge had also questioned whether the first deal served justice.
"The concerns of the victims were the driving force behind this (new) settlement," said Kirk Torgensen, chief deputy of Utah Attorney General's Office.
He said the deal makes it more likely for victims to obtain all their money than had the case gone to trial and restitution were ordered upon conviction. He said victims in that situation often receive only cents on the dollar because a convict cannot make much money while in jail, and probation often ends before full restitution is made.
Reese, as he accepted the deal, warned Jenson that he could face up to 15 years in prison and $750,000 in fines on the charges if he does not make full restitution and meet other terms of the deal within the ordered three years.
The deal specifically allows Jenson to continue as a principal in a group trying to convert the old Elk Meadows ski resort near Beaver into the private Mt. Holly Club. But it bans him from engaging in "hard-money lending" involved in this case, where high-interest, short-term loans are offered to entrepreneurs as they seek longer term loans.
Representatives of two victims told the judge in court they were pleased with the new restitution terms. A third victim, Ricke White, did not object to the deal, but questioned if Jenson was being punished enough.
White had already received restitution and said he agreed to be a witness to bring Jenson to justice. He said the new deal seemed to suggest, "It's like if my car were stolen and returned later, it's OK" and no crime occurred. But Assistant Attorney General Scott Reed said one of the counts agreed to by Jenson made clear that White is a victim.
White said he had been threatened by associates of Jenson against being a witness, and that they had put up a Web site accusing him of being the "bad guy" in the case. "It's been a tough few years," he said.
Early in the case, attorneys for Jenson had questioned whether Shurtleff brought charges against Jenson as a political favor for White, whose wife had donated $6,500 to Shurtleff. White and other victims had met personally with Shurtleff to ask him to bring the charges.
Later when the first lenient plea deal was proposed, victims questioned if Shurtleff had caved into political pressure from supporters of Jenson to allow it.
Shurtleff denied any wrongdoing and said his professional staff made all key decisions about the case. But he acknowledged to the Deseret News what he said was "extraordinary pressure" in the case, including being offered a bribe. He said he reported that to the FBI, and offered no further details.
Other pressure, he said, included that Jenson supporters "hired people who are lobbyists who I've worked with or who I've known and am friends with, people who have raised money for me in the past, to try to get me to drop the charges. I've heard from mission presidents. I've heard from family members."
Shurtleff also said that Brent Hatch, the attorney son of Sen. Orrin Hatch who represents Jenson on civil matters, sent him "volumes of horrible stuff about our witnesses, our victims" arising out of civil suits brought against Jenson.
Shurtleff said he was also sent messages with bogus headlines, including one that said, "Shurtleff prosecutes innocent man on behalf of campaign contributor" supposedly showing what kind of stories could appear if the case proceeded.
One threat was even a bit comical. Because Shurtleff's wife once went to a high school dance with Jenson, Shurtleff said he received a picture of them as a young couple with the made-up headline, "Jealous AG prosecutes wife's high school sweetheart."Shurtleff said in an earlier interview, "That's how crazy it was. Believe me, those kinds of things made me more upset. You think you can frighten off a prosecution by this kind of stuff? Well, bring it on."