Did A.G. John Swallow play a role in accused scammer's plea deal?
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — While serving as then Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's lead fundraiser, current Attorney General John Swallow apparently became involved in plea negotiations for an accused scammer who initially received a sweetheart deal from state prosecutors.
A criminal defense attorney said Marc Sessions Jenson brought Swallow and Tim Lawson, a friend of Shurtleff's, to his office in early 2008. Jenson faced six felony counts for selling unregistered securities, securities fraud and pattern of unlawful activity.
"They were posturing about brokering a deal," said Greg Skordas, who along with his wife, Rebecca Hyde Skordas, represented Jenson in the criminal case. "He and Lawson were supposedly helping us broker things with the attorney general's office, and more importantly the attorney general."
Skordas said he doesn't remember the date of the meeting but it is was "while we were negotiating" a deal for Jenson with the attorney general's office. Those talks took place between January and April in 2008.
Swallow's involvement in the Jenson case is suggested in a document that is among thousands of pages Idaho businessman Grant Lee has collected in his and other court cases involving Jenson.
Swallow's name appears on a two-page summary of the criminal case against Jenson from the time charges were filed in August 2005 through his court approved second plea agreement May 29, 2008.
The last line lists Swallow (along with his cellphone number) as among four attorneys, including Skordas, who are "familiar with these matters." There is no date or author listed on the paper nor does it appear that it was filed in any court.
The lead prosecutor in the case, Scott Reed, said he's not aware of any meeting between Skordas, Swallow and Lawson, and none of them talked to him about it.
"It doesn't make sense to me," he said.
Swallow's attorney, Rod Snow, said Swallow attended a general meeting with others in an attorney's office where the Jenson case was discussed, but he doesn't recall whose office or where the gathering occurred. He also noted that Swallow was in private practice in 2008.
"If anyone was driving the bus on what the deal was going to be on Jenson it was going to be Shurtleff," Snow said. "I doubt John had anything to do with that at all."
Lawson did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Skordas said he understood Swallow was "working as a consultant for Shurtleff, like maybe working on his campaign or something" at the time.
Shurtleff was seeking re-election to a third term in 2008. Swallow was not employed at the attorney general's office then but was Shurtleff's chief fundraiser. Shurtleff would hire Swallow as his chief deputy in October 2009.
Skordas, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully against Shurtleff in 2004, said Shurtleff and Swallow were "always sort of around" Jenson's criminal case.
"(Jenson) maintained some communication with Swallow. He maintained communication with Shurtleff. I don't know if they were helping him. He certainly thought they were going to, but we didn't have many dealings with them," he said, adding those were things Jenson was doing on his own.
In a 2008 Deseret News story, Shurtleff said he felt "extraordinary pressure" from Jenson supporters to drop the charges against him. Meantime, Jenson's defense attorneys raised the possibility that Shurtleff filed the charges as a favor to a campaign donor who also was a party in the case.
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