No federal charges for John Swallow, Mark Shurtleff

Published: Thursday, Sept. 12 2013 9:45 a.m. MDT

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is interviewed in his office at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Federal authorities will not file criminal charges against Utah Attorney General John Swallow or his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff.

Both learned through their lawyers Thursday that the U.S. Department of Justice Public Integrity Section completed its investigation and will not seek an indictment.

Swallow described his reaction to the news as "excited, happy and humbled." But he continued to maintain that the allegations are politically motivated.

"I have said all along that I didn't do anything that would lead to these kinds of accusations. I really wonder about the sources people rely on when they go ballistic with allegations against a public official," Swallow said.

St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson ignited a political firestorm in January when he accused Swallow of helping broker an attempt to bribe a U.S. senator to thwart a federal investigation into Johnson's Internet sales and marketing company iWorks.

Johnson declined to comment Thursday, citing an ongoing court-imposed gag order in his criminal case. The Federal Trade Commission shut down iWorks in 2011, and Johnson now faces an 86-count fraud indictment.

Johnson's accusation led to a federal probe, which spawned ongoing investigations on the state and county levels not only involving Swallow but Shurtleff as well. The federal decision does not appear to have changed the course of those inquiries.

The former attorney general said he was relieved to have the burden of the federal investigation removed.

"Frankly, I fell to my knees," Shurtleff said on KSL NewRadio's "The Doug Wright Show," his voice cracking with emotion. "You can only imagine … what this cloud puts over 14 years of public service and, more importantly, the impact on my family."

Rumors that the DOJ would not file federal charges against Swallow and Shurtleff have swirled for the past several weeks. But agency spokesman Peter Carr would not confirm the report Thursday.

“As a matter of policy, we’ll decline to comment and refer you to their attorneys,” Carr said.

The DOJ typically doesn't issue a report of its criminal investigations or explain why it declines to file charges.

Swallow declined to comment about his interactions with federal authorities and details of the investigation.

"There aren't a lot of answers, but there are some answers," Swallow said, saying specifically that there wasn't enough "credible evidence" to bring federal charges against him or Shurtleff.

"The people may not know everything, but they know that. That's a lot to know," he said.

Several businessmen, including Marc Jenson and Johnson, accused Swallow and Shurtleff of influence peddling in various settings. Some of the allegations involved both officials together, while others were aimed at them individually.

Jenson, a one-time multimillionaire, claims Shurtleff and Swallow shook him down for campaign contributions and other favors during trips to his posh Newport Beach villa. He also accused Swallow of securing a "quid pro quo" agreement from him for a $1 million lot in the failed billion-dollar golf and ski resort known as Mount Holly.

Swallow, a private attorney during his interactions with Jenson, and Shurtleff steadfastly denied the allegations. Jenson is serving a 10-year prison term for failing to pay a $4.1 million restitution in an earlier criminal case in which he pleaded no contest to selling unregistered securities.

Shurtleff described his accusers as "liars, haters and political enemies."

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