Ex-Attorney General John Swallow deliberately destroyed data, made up documents, investigators say

Published: Thursday, Dec. 19 2013 12:10 p.m. MST

House Special Investigative Committee member Rep. Brad Dee, center, listens to Steve Reich, lead attorney for the committee to investigate former Attorney General John Swallow, at the Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A meeting with indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson at a Krispy Kreme shop in Orem so rattled then-attorney general candidate John Swallow last year that he went on a monthlong spree of destroying data and creating documents to cover any appearance of wrongdoing, a Utah House committee lawyer said Thursday.

Steve Reich, lead attorney for the special investigative committee, spun a damning four-hour narrative of Swallow's actions after the April 30, 2012, meeting with Johnson, who secretly recorded the conversation.

Swallow feared that if his involvement with Johnson became public, it could cost him the election and make him the target of a criminal investigation. He also wondered what he would do if he couldn't be a lawyer.

"We believe the evidence here shows Mr. Swallow panicked following the Krispy Kreme meeting," Reich told the bipartisan panel. "It was this panic that led him down a path of evidence elimination and evidence fabrication."

Committee members were shocked and angry after the first half of Reich's unprecedented report on a statewide elected official in Utah. He'll continue his presentation Friday.

"John Swallow is on a mystical island that only he can see," said Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork. "As I sit here and look at what our attorney general did, it's offensive to voters, it's offensive to me, and I think it should be offensive to the Legislature."

Although the committee wasn't charged with making a recommendation on impeachment, McKell said it would "absolutely" be on the table if Swallow hadn't resigned this month.

"It's clear that John Swallow has not been truthful to the people of Utah. Period," McKell said.

Swallow's attorney Rod Snow in an email Thursday denied that Swallow deliberately deleted computer files or that he fabricated documents.

"Nothing to our knowledge was intentionally deleted that was problematic, that is that would have been incriminating. Emails were deleted in the regular course," he said.

Snow said the committee findings reflect its need to justify the more than $2.3 million it has spent on the investigation.

"Just remember there are two sides to this story, and the House only wants to hear one side to justify the expenditure of taxpayer dollars," he said.

Reich said Snow wouldn't agree to a videotaped interview of Swallow.

"We never got to ask him the many questions we had about what happened here," he said, adding it left investigators to rely on Swallow's statements in other forums, including the press.

And through Swallow representatives, investigators got "shifting and contradictory" explanations. "His changing of events goes beyond the frailties of human recollection," Reich said.

It's "highly unlikely" that Swallow's missing 2010 emails were accidentally deleted from his inbox or trash bin, he said.

Investigators found data missing from every electronic device Swallow had since he first joined the attorney general's office as chief deputy in December 2009. Swallow also apparently lost an external hard drive on an airplane last November and lost his iPad in on a trip to Washington, D.C., earlier this year.

"We don't believe this slew of data losses can be innocently explained," Reich said.

Reich didn't go so far as to say Swallow committed any crimes, but he said prosecutors might well consider charges such as obstruction of justice, destroying state records and impeding state employees from doing their jobs.

Swallow is the subject of an ongoing joint Salt Lake County and Davis County criminal investigation.

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