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Criminal charges — Ex-A.G.s Swallow, Shurtleff accepted bribes, destroyed evidence

The 2 former Utah top cops face 23 felonies, misdemeanors between them

Published: Tuesday, July 15 2014 8:10 a.m. MDT

Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow leaves the Salt Lake County jail after being booked and posting bond Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in South Salt Lake City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff were arrested and charged Tuesday on allegations ranging from accepting bribes to destroying evidence.

Both were arrested at their Sandy homes by members of the FBI and the Utah Department of Public Safety, and they arrived at the Salt Lake County Jail shortly after 8 a.m.

The state's former top law enforcement officials were charged in 3rd District Court with pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony; and three counts of receiving or soliciting bribes by a public official, a second-degree felony.

In addition, Shurtleff was charged with two counts of illegally accepting gifts or loans, a second-degree felony; accepting employment that would impair judgment, a second-degree felony; witness tampering, a third-degree felony; tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; and obstruction of justice, a third-degree felony.

Shurtleff walked out of the jail on crutches and wearing a boot cast on his left leg about 11:45 a.m. His teenage daughter ran up to hug him before they got into a vehicle and drove away.

Later, Shurtleff went on the offensive during a news conference, steadfastly denying any wrongdoing and delivering strong words against Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

"I admit that I am not perfect and never professed to be. I have made mistakes and errors in judgment. But I have never intentionally committed any breaches of professional ethics, misused or abused my office of public trust, and certainly never violated the criminal laws of this state or our nation," Shurtleff said.

Swallow walked out of jail about 25 minutes after Shurtleff. He said it's been a very difficult time for him, but he looks forward to having his day in court.

"I absolutely maintain my innocence, and this is just a process. Thank goodness we have a Constitution. We are presumed innocent until we're proven guilty. And I look forward to my day in court to confront my accusers and to share my side of the story for really the first time," he said.

Swallow was also charged with accepting a gift or loan when prohibited, a second-degree felony; giving false or inconsistent statements, a second-degree felony; three counts of evidence tampering, a third-degree felony; obstruction of justice, a third-degree felony; falsifying or altering government records, a class B misdemeanor; failing to disclose a conflict of interest, a class B misdemeanor; and misuse of public money, a third-degree felony.

While Gill called them "serious allegations," he also said they are the "appropriate minimal charges."

"We could have filed more, but we have chosen instead to file what we have," he said during a news conference at the FBI's Salt Lake headquarters.

Gill also expressed his frustrations with the U.S. Department of Justice, which declined to file criminal charges last year.

"This case is not something we should be prosecuting as local prosecutors," he said.

Shurtleff's attorney, Max Wheeler, told KSL Newsradio's Doug Wright, however, that charges shouldn't have been filed at all after the DOJ opted not to prosecute.

"There's no new smoking gun. There's no new charge that wasn't previously investigated," he said. "(Shurtleff) had sat down and talked to federal investigators a year ago about the very same matters. He thought he had given his explanations concerning the matters under investigation back then. He was obviously disappointed that Mr. Gill thought he knew better than the … justice department."

Shurtleff echoed his attorney's words, saying he believes Gill's intentions to file charges are politically motivated.

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