Attorneys disagree whether phone call in Jenson case was a threat

Published: Monday, June 24 2013 3:36 p.m. MDT

Utah Deputy Attorney General Kirk Torgensen speaks during a legislative interim committee in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — An attorney for Marc Sessions Jenson says he received a "veiled threat" from embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow's chief deputy over the weekend.

Marcus Mumford told a 3rd District judge Monday that in a call to his office chief deputy attorney general Kirk Torgensen "advised us to be careful." Mumford said his law partner took the 15-minute call Saturday morning.

"Mr. Torgensen advised us that 'Mumford needs to be careful,'" Mumford said after the court hearing. "Mr. Torgensen further indicated that he was personally a witness in the case, that he was disgusted with the actions of Mr. Swallow."

In response, assistant attorney general Scott Reed told Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills, "News to me."

Torgensen said in an interview that he didn't make any threats. He said he has known Mumford's partner, Bret Rawson, for years and called because prosecutors in the Jenson case are being unfairly maligned.

"I was just talking to a friend," Torgensen said.

Jenson appeared in court Monday shackled, chained and wearing a white prison jumpsuit for a hearing in the criminal case against him. Prosecutors charged Jenson and his brother Stephen R. Jenson with felony communications fraud and money laundering in connection with a failed multibillion-dollar luxury resort project in Beaver County.

A onetime wealthy businessman, Jenson claims Swallow and former attorney general Mark Shurtleff shook him down during all-expenses-paid visits to his Southern California villa. He also accused Swallow of securing a "quid pro quo" agreement from him for a $1 million lot in the planned members-only resort development known as Mount Holly.

Swallow, a private attorney during his interactions with Jenson, and Shurtleff have denied the allegations.

Jenson is serving a 10-year prison term for failing to pay $4.1 million restitution in an earlier criminal case in which he pleaded no contest to selling unregistered securities. Prison officials recently moved him to the Davis County Jail for his own protection, according to his attorneys.

Outside court, Mumford said Torgensen's phone call "suggests to me that they've got me in their sights and they've got my office in their crosshairs somehow. If they think that's going to have any effect or impact on me, they've got another thing coming."

Mumford said Torgensen in the phone call also said he was "troubled" by the association Shurtleff and Swallow had with Lawson, a self-described "fixer" for the former attorney general.

Torgensen said his call to Rawson came on the heels of a "nasty story" that suggested he and Reed are under investigation along with Swallow and Shurtleff. Torgensen said that is not true.

Jenson's attorneys last week showed news outlets an immunity agreement Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings offered Jenson for his cooperation in their investigation of Shurtleff and Swallow. The agreement also names Torgensen, Reed, Utah Department of Commerce head Francine Giani and Shurtleff confidant Tim Lawson.

Giani said she is unaware of her name being included in any investigation.

"If someone needs to speak to me, they know where to find me," she said.

In a statement, Gill and Rawlings said the names in the agreement were specified by Jenson and that they do not consider all of them suspects or targets.

"It was proffered to us that Mr. Jenson would provide relevant information, evidence and testimony related to each of these individuals," according to the statement. "In our view, the descriptive term 'key witness' more appropriately applies to one or more of the individuals named by Mr. Jenson as subject to his evidentiary proffers."

Torgensen said he asked Rawson to "please don't let my people get sideswiped" in Mumford's defense of Jenson. The prosecutors in the case are good people who are just doing their jobs, Torgensen said.

"All of us have been damaged by exterior fallout, and there's nothing we can do about it," Torgensen said. "I just don't want it to get to the point where I see people's careers are hurt unnecessarily. It's just not fair."

Mumford earlier this month filed a massive motion to disqualify the entire attorney general's office from prosecuting Jenson due to the allegations against Swallow and Shurtleff. The attorney general's office opposes the motion. A court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 5.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy

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