Charges filed against 'fixer' in ongoing investigation of Shurtleff, Swallow

Published: Thursday, Dec. 12 2013 7:10 p.m. MST

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

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A man who saw himself as former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's "fixer" has been criminally charged in an ongoing investigation involving the state's two previous top law enforcers.

Timothy William Lawson, 49, engaged in multiple instances of retaliating against witnesses, witness tampering, obstructing justice, bribery, falsifying tax information to hide income and failing to pay taxes, according to felony charges filed Thursday in 3rd District Court.

Specifically, Lawson is charged with pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony; two counts of tax violations, second- and third-degree felonies; retaliation against a witness, a third-degree felony; and two second-degree felony counts of obstruction of justice.

Lawson, of Provo, is a longtime friend of Shurtleff and his successor, John Swallow, who resigned as attorney general this month.

Prosecutors allege Lawson used that friendship to influence others using intimidation and aggressive tactics, mostly behind the scenes. He told one businessman that he was like "Porter Rockwell and that he took care of things" for Shurtleff, according to court documents. Porter Rockwell was known as LDS Church founder Joseph Smith's roughneck bodyguard.

At one point in March 2010, Kirk Torgensen, chief deputy of the attorney general's office civil division, sent an email to Shurtleff and Swallow — who then was chief deputy for the civil division — expressing concern about Lawson.

"Lawson is the guy that is going to bring down the house of cards," Torgensen wrote.

Police booked Lawson into the Utah County Jail on Thursday afternoon. He is held on $250,000 bail, said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon. Investigators removed paper files from Lawson's home Thursday evening.

In February 2013, Torgensen took his concerns about Lawson to Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings who, along with Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, opened an investigation.

Gill said Thursday's charges focus only on Lawson.

"We are not looking at anybody else, other than our investigation is ongoing. When the rest of our investigation is completed, we'll address those issues, if necessary, at that time," he said.

Shurtleff did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Lawson and Swallow have maintained a friendship since 2009, according to court documents. They have exchanged 680 calls or text messages, the latest being September, prosecutors say. They discussed the holidays, the 2012 election, the FBI investigation into Swallow and possible wiretapping of Lawson's phone.

Swallow's attorney Rod Snow questions that number and disagrees with the characterization that Swallow and Lawson have a longtime association. Swallow has tried to "steer clear" of Lawson and did not want him raising money for his 2012 election campaign as he had done for Shurtleff, he said.

Snow also said he doesn't see why Gill and Rawlings are "throwing that out there" when it's not relevant to the charges against Lawson.

Lawson represented himself as a close friend of Shurtleff's to businessman Marc Sessions Jenson, who faced securities fraud charges in 2008. Lawson emailed Shurtleff a proposed plea agreement for Jenson without knowledge of the prosecutor assigned to the case, according to court documents.

Shurtleff himself arranged a plea in abeyance for Jenson that the assigned prosecutor found so lenient that she told her superiors about it and then was removed from the case, court documents show. It contained neither jail time nor restitution.

A judge subsequently rejected the deal but approved an amended plea deal that had no jail time but included $4.1 million in restitution.

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