Ex-A.G. Shurtleff told FBI about Swallow allegations last year

"I think John had some poor judgment"

Published: Monday, Feb. 11 2013 7:05 p.m. MST

Jeremy Johnson leaves federal court in Salt Lake City Friday, Feb. 1, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff told federal investigators last October about the bribery allegations a St. George businessman made earlier this year against new Attorney General John Swallow.

Jeremy Johnson called Shurtleff just before the November election urging him to convince Swallow to drop out of the race. "He wanted to report to me what he thought were improprieties on John's part," Shurtleff told the Deseret News on Monday.

Johnson let Shurtleff listen to portions of a secretly recorded meeting between Johnson and Swallow that occurred at a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop in Orem last April. During the conversation, the two discussed a financial arrangement through which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would receive a payoff to derail a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Johnson's once lucrative Internet marketing company.

After talking to Swallow about Johnson's claims, Shurtleff said he didn't see any evidence of a state crime, but perhaps there was potential of a federal crime "depending on whether you believe Johnson's story to the max."

"At that point as a law enforcement official, I felt like I had a duty to notify federal authorities, even though it was obviously very difficult for me to do that. He's my chief deputy. He's my friend. I don't believe, knowing him as well as I do, that he ever formed criminal intent to bribe or break the law. But I'm not a federal official," Shurtleff said.

The former three-term Republican attorney general, who now works for the international law firm Troutman Sanders LLP, spoke about the accusations against Swallow for the first time in an interview Monday.

Shurtleff said he met with the FBI and the Department of Justice before and after the Nov. 6 election in which Swallow handily defeated Democratic Weber County Attorney Dee Smith.

"I don't know if that matters to people, but when it came to my knowledge I just didn't brush it off," said Shurtleff, who hired Swallow to be his chief deputy in 2009.

Shurtleff said he understands that the federal investigation is now focusing more on campaign promises Swallow might have made in exchange for donations.

"I'm hearing rumblings that more people are going to come say he promised to do this, take care of my issues or whatever," he said. "I was only at a few of his fundraising events, but I never heard him make any kind of tit for tat, quid pro quo. He's smarter than that."

Johnson claims Swallow helped arrange a deal to enlist Reid to quash a FTC investigation of his company, iWorks, in 2010. Swallow maintains that he only introduced Johnson to his friend and former employer, Richard Rawle, who had connections to federal lobbyists who could tell Johnson's side of the story.

Johnson and an associate paid Rawle $250,000, but the FTC shut down iWorks before any lobbying was done.

Shurtleff said he told Swallow to hire a lawyer and "take himself down there and clear it up as soon as possible." Swallow did get an attorney, but Shurtleff said Swallow did not speak with federal authorities on the advice of his attorney.

Shurtleff also said he told the FBI to interview Rawle, who was dying of cancer.

"I don't know if they did or not. I kind of suspect they did not, but I don't know why," Shurtleff said. "But it might have helped. People are griping now that John got a deathbed affidavit."

Rawle died Dec. 8, three days after signing a declaration saying he was not aware of a plan to influence Reid. The senator has disavowed any knowledge of Johnson's case.

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