Important government witnesses have been threatened, intimidated, harassed and otherwise improperly influenced in the name of civil discovery in this case. —Jeannette Swent, special assistant U.S attorney for Utah
SALT LAKE CITY — Indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson wants to subpoena Utah Attorney General John Swallow in what government attorneys say might be an attempt to improperly use his civil case to gather evidence in his criminal case.
Swallow seems to be "entirely irrelevant" to the Federal Trade Commission complaint against Johnson, according to court documents filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Nevada.
"Mr. Johnson may believe that Mr. Swallow’s testimony is relevant to the criminal case, but he should not be allowed to use civil discovery to build his criminal (case)," wrote Jeannette Swent, special assistant U.S attorney for Utah.
Federal prosecutors in Utah and Nevada are seeking a court order preventing Johnson and other defendants from interviewing witnesses in the FTC case. They contend allowing him to collect evidence in the civil matter will compromise the criminal case against him.
In a court memorandum filed earlier this month, Johnson, who is acting as his own lawyer in the FTC case, accused federal attorneys and agents of misconduct and conspiring to fabricate evidence against him.
He says investigators used threats, bribery, extortion, forgery and manipulation of judges to build their case. Johnson also uses the memo not so much to argue against the government's proposed order but to proclaim his innocence.
The federal response filed Monday says the bulk of Johnson's memorandum "roils with unsubstantiated accusations of collusion, conspiracies and bad faith, none of which are relevant to defending" the civil claims, criminal charges and the motion to limit discovery.
The government says it's Johnson, not FTC lawyers, who has hassled potential witnesses, including a former employee and an alleged fraud victim.
"Important government witnesses have been threatened, intimidated, harassed and otherwise improperly influenced in the name of civil discovery in this case," Swent wrote.
Johnson and four former iWorks executives are named in two cases running simultaneously through the federal court system — the civil FTC complaint in Las Vegas and an 86-count criminal fraud indictment in Salt Lake City. The FTC contends iWorks bilked online customers of nearly $300 million.
The parallel cases have witnesses, facts and legal issues in common. The complications have caused a dispute among the parties regarding access to witnesses, including those the government has identified as victims of alleged fraud.
Johnson and his associates have a "peculiar" understanding of the cases, according to government attorneys. Their memo is "full of sound and fury signifying nothing but their own confusion over the parallel cases."
For example, the government says Johnson is trying to gather evidence to prove his innocence, but guilt or innocence are not at issue in the FTC case. It contends that is a sign Johnson and his associates will continue use the civil case to improperly subpoena a witnesses for the criminal case unless the court stops it.