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2 others back up extortion claims against Swallow, Shurtleff

Published: Sunday, June 16 2013 8:40 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Until attorneys for imprisoned businessman Marc Sessions Jenson filed court documents over the weekend saying Utah's current and former attorneys general extorted him, he was alone in making that contention publicly.

But two former Jenson employees back up his claims in sworn declarations included in a motion in 3rd District Court to disqualify the entire Utah Attorney General's Office from prosecuting him on felony charges connected to the failed $3.5 billion Mount Holly resort project.

Also, a Democratic state lawmaker has drafted a resolution calling for the Utah House to start impeachment proceedings against or conduct an investigation into Attorney General John Swallow's activities.

In addition, Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, wants the full House to discuss the issue. Majority House Republicans plan to talk about the impeachment process on their own Wednesday.

Paul Torres, who worked as Jenson's personal assistant and manager from 2001 to 2010, said he made arrangements for Swallow and his predecessor, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, to stay in Jenson's guest villa at the Pelican Hill resort in Newport Coast, Calif., in 2009. Swallow was in private practice at the time but would become Shurtleff's chief deputy later that year.

Torres described the visits as "awkward" and said Jenson was "especially nervous about the expectations they placed on him."

"Mr. Jenson conveyed to me that he felt a large amount of pressure to make certain things happen for Messrs. Shurtleff and Swallow in order to see his situation improve with regards to the cases brought by the attorney general's office," Torres wrote.

The attorney general's office had charged Jenson with securities fraud in 2005. He pleaded no contest to reduced charges of selling unregistered securities and a judge ordered him to pay $4.1 million in restitution in May 2008.

Jenson's attorneys are using Torres' statement to support their contention that Swallow and Shurtleff extorted Jenson for personal and political gain, and that they're now more interested in defending themselves from investigations into their office's misconduct than they are justice.

Jenson, 53, made that claim — citing specific interactions and meetings — the past several weeks in interviews from prison where he is serving a 10-year sentence for failing to repay the money required in the 2008 plea deal.

The response from both Swallow and Shurtleff has been to "consider the source."

"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," Shurtleff reiterated in a statement Saturday.

Another former Jenson employee, Paul J. Nelson, said Rob Stahura told him in 2007 "that the key to resolving matters with the attorney general’s office was to donate to Mr. Shurtleff’s campaign," according to a sworn declaration. A longtime friend of Jenson, Stahura was a major Shurtleff fundraiser.

"As an example, Mr. Stahura explained how, after he donated to Mr. Shurtleff, the attorney general’s office had largely stayed away from his call center business," said Nelson, who worked as Jenson's head of security for seven years. Shurtleff has repeatedly denied any special treatment by his office.

Nelson also said Stahura in 2007 introduced Jenson to Tim Lawson, a close friend to Shurtleff who described himself as the attorney general's "fixer."

Jenson, in a sworn declaration included in the weekend court filing, said Lawson got Shurtleff on the phone during one of their first meetings.

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