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Missing Swallow records 'deeply worrisome,' committee told

Scope of data loss 'is not anything I have seen before,' investigator says

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 5 2013 5:19 p.m. MST

Utah Attorney General John Swallow speaks to the media after a Republican House Caucus meeting to discuss impeachment at the Capitol in Salt Lake City Wednesday, June 19, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A lawyer for the Utah House committee investigating Attorney General John Swallow says it's troubling that records are missing from every electronic device Swallow has had since he became chief deputy four years ago.

Steve Reich also told the panel Tuesday that he couldn't fathom why the Utah Attorney General's Office didn't issue a "document hold" in the face of several investigations into alleged wrongdoing on Swallow's part, and that Swallow seemed aware as far back as April 2012 that federal authorities had an eye on him.

"I will tell you the scope of the data loss here is not anything that I have seen before, and it is something that I find deeply worrisome," he said.

Reich told the nine-member committee that investigators have run into a "series of troubling circumstances" the past month, including the missing electronic records, the attorney general's office failing to preserve evidence, and a witness ignoring a subpoena.

"What's happened here makes our job immeasurably harder and immeasurably costlier," said Reich, who served as lead counsel to the Connecticut House committee that investigated then-Gov. John Rowland in 2004.

Not only do investigators want to recover information missing from Swallow's desktop, laptop and personal computers, cellphone and PDA, they also want to figure out if it was deliberately deleted, he said.

Reich said investigators can't say how the data disappeared, but "what we can say now is that if relevant records were intentionally deleted, the committee must examine whether those deletions were part of an effort to hide the truth."

Only three people, including Swallow, had access to Swallow's accounts, and two of them told investigators they didn't remove any of the missing data, Reich said.

"That obviously leaves one individual that we'd want to talk to about what happened. It would be the attorney general," he said.

Under state law, it is a class B misdemeanor to destroy records.

Reich said he would leave open the possibility of a "benign explanation," but "what we have learned should be very troubling to the committee."

His report seemed to stun committee members, some of whom questioned whether the first-term Republican is taking the House investigation seriously.

Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said Swallow pledged full support to the federal investigation, "but yet to this committee, that doesn't seem to be the case." The Department of Justice decided in September not to file criminal charges against Swallow.

And Rep. Lynn Hemingway, D-Salt Lake City, said, "Does he consider this committee a bridge club where we just get together and play cards?"

Swallow's attorney, Rod Snow, said Swallow is "just fine" with the missing records being recovered.

"We do not believe that any of the data will suggest wrongdoing on the part of the attorney general," Snow wrote in an email.

Investigators say a large number of Swallow's emails are missing from computer servers along with many electronic calendar entries from 2009 to 2011. Swallow served as chief deputy attorney general from December 2009 before being elected to the top spot last November.

Swallow's home computer crashed in January, and Snow said despite it being sent to a private computer consultant, the data could not be recovered.

Swallow received new state-issued desktop and laptop computers and a PDA when he took office in January. Reich said the office technology staff asked him if he had everything he needed from the old devices, and when Swallow said yes, nothing was transferred to the new computers. The old ones were then wiped clean, he said.

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