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FBI confirms ongoing role in John Swallow investigation

Published: Thursday, Sept. 19 2013 6:50 p.m. MDT

Legislators and others participate in the first meeting of a legislative panel investigating allegations against Utah Attorney General John Swallow at the state Capitol Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, in Salt Lake City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Department of Justice declined to file criminal charges against embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow, but federal investigators remain a key part of the ongoing state investigation.

Local FBI agents are working with the Utah Department of Public Safety in an investigation spearheaded by Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.

Special agent Todd Palmer confirmed Thursday that the agency is "still working with our state and local partners" on the Swallow investigation, actions that aren't typical, according to University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell.

"It's an unusual situation to have a federal agency work on state charges," said Cassell, a former federal judge and assistant U.S. attorney. But in this case, Cassell said, it could be that the FBI collected information that the state doesn't need to duplicate and that it provides continuity to the investigation.

"When you look at it through an administrative lens, it makes sense," Cassell said.

Investigators are looking into whether Swallow and his predecessor Mark Shurtleff broke any state laws in their dealings with indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson and imprisoned businessman Marc Jenson, among other things.

Reports that the FBI was investigating Swallow go back more than a year. Shurtleff himself went to the FBI last October after learning of Johnson's allegation that Swallow helped arrange to bribe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in hopes of ending a Federal Trade Commission investigation into his company.

The Utah U.S. Attorney's Office acknowledged last January it was investigating Swallow, but the DOJ's Public Integrity Section took over the case in May.

The DOJ last week told Swallow's attorney its investigation was done and that it would not seek an indictment against the first-term Republican attorney general. It also declined to file charges against Shurtleff for any alleged wrongdoing.

On the heels of that announcement, Rawlings made it clear the state investigation is not finished and that the FBI continues to be involved. Neither he nor Palmer would elaborate beyond that.

Swallow is the subject of at least two other active government investigations.

"What happened with the feds didn't change anything that we're doing. We're moving ahead," said Mark Thomas, chief deputy lieutenant governor and state elections director.

The lieutenant governor's office hired the Snell & Wilmer law firm to look into whether Swallow violated state campaign finance laws. Swallow allegedly failed to disclose his involvement in and payments from a consulting firm, and that he made false statements about his personal finances on campaign disclosure forms.

Snell & Wilmer expects to finish its investigation by the end of December, though having to go to court to obtain depositions and documents could slow it down, Thomas said.

Lawyers and investigators for the Utah House special investigative committee began its work this month. Chairman Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said the nine-member panel has a different focus than the other investigations, specifically to gather facts about Swallow and present them to the public.

The Utah State Bar also is considering two unprofessional conduct complaints against Swallow.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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