SALT LAKE CITY — Attorneys for imprisoned swindler Marc Sessions Jenson filed court documents Saturday claiming he is a victim of a "shakedown" by embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff.
The stunning filing in support of Jenson's motion to remove the Utah Attorney General's Office from his pending criminal case accuses Swallow of securing a "quid pro quo" agreement from Jenson promising Swallow a lot valued at $1 million in a planned members-only ski resort development known as Mount Holly.
Swallow, the filing states, had "told Jenson that he was going to be the next attorney general and that Jenson would need Swallow in that position to work through issues that may arise with respect to the Mount Holly development."
And prosecutors in the case, assistant attorneys general Scott Reed and Che Arguello, are accused in the filing of "staking out" Jenson's wife and family in a suspicious manner, "because of either an abnormal personal infatuation with this case or a desire to harass the family members of Mr. Jenson or both."
The accusations are all part of what Jenson's attorneys call a "pattern of wrongdoing" and extortion by the attorney general's office that is "now more interested in defending themselves against the disclosures and investigations of the office’s misconduct than they are in seeking justice on behalf of the people of the state of Utah."
Swallow's personal attorney, Rod Snow, said there was no agreement that Swallow would get a Mount Holly lot and called the claim "ridiculous."
"The fact certain members of the press continue to rely on a felon in prison who is facing new charges which could result in additional convictions and even more time in prison, to smear a newly elected A.G., is astounding to me and many others," Snow said Saturday.
The filing also indicates that as a private attorney, Swallow was personally involved in 2007 and 2008, "albeit intermittently," as a member of Jenson's legal team in key decisions about the Mount Holly development when Swallow sought a "piece of Mount Holly."
But Snow said Swallow had never worked for Jenson. The idea was discussed but never materialized, he said.
Shurtleff, who recently left a Washington, D.C. law firm to start a consulting business, said in a statement: "Marc Jenson's allegations of a shakedown (just like his repeated lies to media from his prison cell) are an absolute fabrication by a convicted serial fraudster."
Jenson, who is serving a 10-year sentence after failing to pay millions of dollars in court-ordered restitution to investors in a lending operation, faces felony charges along with his brother in connection with his unsuccessful attempt to turn the Beaver County ski area into an exclusive members-only resort.
"This is just the start of what we anticipate bringing to the court in order to seek justice on Mr. Jenson's behalf," Jenson's lead attorney, Marcus Mumford, told the Deseret News.
Mumford said there is more to come about both Swallow and Shurtleff.
"This isn't comprehensive by any means," he said, noting that new information is still being uncovered and is expected to be brought to the court's attention shortly. "Ultimately, what we anticipate is the facts will exonerate Mr. Jenson."
The court documents accuse Swallow and Shurtleff of using the prosecution of Jenson over eight years to "benefit themselves and their friends at his expense," by initiating "false charges originating from a political donor whose payments to Shurtleff's campaign coincided with the timing of the case," the filing states.
"Shurtleff and Swallow and their associates then shook Jenson down, enriching themselves and their friends with over $200,000 in payments and other benefits from Jenson between 2007 and 2010."
The allegations also include what is described as Jenson's "precarious" situation in the state prison system after Jenson told reporters about his dealings with Swallow and Shurtleff, including trips to a Southern California resort at his expense.
Jenson was recently put into protective custody "to ensure his life and safety," according to the filing. Mumford said Jenson has been transferred from the Utah State Prison to the the Davis County Jail, but the situation raises "concerns and questions about who was responsible for putting him in harm's way."
Court documents state that on June 4, Jenson was unexpectedly transferred to a prison housing unit for serious offenders and was with a "dangerous inmate with gang affiliations." After an attorney expressed concerns saying she "feared for Mr. Jenson's life," he was transferred to Davis County.
Asked if Swallow had anything to do with Jenson's situation in prison, Snow said he knew nothing about that. "I don't think so. Generally if a prisoner is moved, it's at his own request," Snow said. "I don't believe it would have anything to do with this story."
The court documents also state that the attorney general's office "either extorted or aided and/or abetted in the extortion" of Jenson. Jenson paid more than $200,000, according to the filing, including more than $122,000 to Tim Lawson, a self-described "fixer" who worked for Shurtleff.
That amount did not include expenses incurred by Swallow, Shurtleff and Lawson that were charged to Jenson, the filing said. Jenson has described for reporters trips taken by Swallow and Shurtleff to a posh Newport Beach resort at his expense.
Swallow's attorney, Snow, said it's not true that Swallow received any money from Jenson, just a few free nights at the resort.
"That's it. We would be shocked if Shurtleff got any money," Snow said.
Swallow and Shurtleff were taking advantage of the "weird relationship" they had with Jenson, according to the filing, because after he entered into a plea in abeyance on an earlier case, he was motivated "to comply with requests for money and favors" by Shurtleff and Swallow.
The demands on Jenson became "increasingly problematic," the court documents state, including that he raise $2 million "for a stranger in violation of the terms of his plea" and that he buy a "large volume" of a book that Shurtleff wrote "without even accepting delivery as a way to put Shurtleff money."
Also, the filing said Jenson was told to ask one of his employees to get then-U.S. Attorney Brent Tolman to back off of an investigation into Shurtleff. The employee, Paul Nelson, said in the filing he was asked by Lawson to contact Tolman, a relative.
Nelson, who handled security for Jenson until 2011, said in the filing that Lawson told him "that it would be very good for Mr. Jenson and suggested that if I did, a way could be found to drop the state's case against Mr. Jenson without having to pay the $4 million in restitution" owed as part of the plea in abeyance.
If he didn't contact the U.S. attorney, Nelson alleges that he was told "things could get worse, including a potential investigation into Mount Holly." Tolman, Nelson said in the filing, did not respond to a text message about the situation.
Swallow is currently the subject of federal, state and local investigations on a variety of allegations, including that he helped broker a deal for an indicted St. George businessman attempting to halt a federal investigation into his company.
On Wednesday, GOP House members will meet for three hours to discuss whether to begin impeachment proceedings against Swallow, a fellow Republican who took office in January.17 comments on this story
Swallow served as Shurtleff's chief deputy and raised money for the former attorney general's past campaigns. Swallow has said repeatedly he has done nothing wrong and that the allegations are politically motivated.
"If I had anything to hide," Swallow said recently, "I wouldn't be sitting here in this office right now. I would do the quote unquote honorable thing, if I had done something that wrong, and I would leave my office."