Utah’s top stories of 2013

Published: Monday, Dec. 30 2013 10:10 p.m. MST

A slide at Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine which occurred Wednesday, April 10 is shown Thursday, April 11, 2013.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The most historic moments are often the tear-jerking or scandalous or upsetting events. Looking back through 2013, we covered controversies, failings, murders, unjustified shootings, disasters and losses.

But we also covered compelling triumphs, successes, charitable actions, post-disaster unity and lessons learned from mistakes.

Some stories, like the attorney general controversy, held our attention the entire year. Others captivated us briefly, but have had a lasting impact. And then there are those stories that we are still in the throes of, yet to find resolution.

According to our editors, these are the 10 most noteworthy and poignant local stories of 2013.

1. John Swallow

Certainly the most enduring story of the year, the controversy of former Utah Attorney General John Swallow merited coverage almost every week. Shortly after Swallow took office in January, he faced allegations of influence peddling.

Those and other allegations prompted multiple investigations, by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Utah State Bar, state elections office, U.S. Department of Justice Public Integrity Section, and a special Utah House investigative committee.

While federal authorities declined to press charges against Swallow, he continues to be investigated by district attorneys in Salt Lake and Davis counties, the FBI, and the Utah Department of Public Safety.

The House committee, which has spent nearly $3 million so far, reported email and other data missing from Swallow’s electronic devices. Investigators say Swallow deliberately destroyed data, made up documents and asked for $120,000 from a jailed businessman.

The embattled Swallow announced his resignation on Nov. 21, on the same day the lieutenant governor’s office prepared to issue a report that Swallow violated state election law.

Gov. Gary Herbert announced on Dec. 23 that Sean Reyes, who lost to Swallow in the 2012 GOP primary election, will be the new attorney general. Reyes was sworn in Dec. 30.

2. Same-sex marriage

Federal judge Robert Shelby on Dec. 20 struck down the Utah Constitution's ban on same-sex marriage. Amendment 3, supported by 66 percent of Utah voters in 2004, defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Shelby ruled the amendment to be unconstitutional under the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

That afternoon, same-sex couples rushed to the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office, and about 150 marriage licenses were issued. Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis was married to his partner of 27 years, Stephen Justesen, by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.

Whirlwind marriages continued the next week as couples hustled to get licenses before a possible stay on the ruling could be issued. The state requested a halt to the marriages, but Shelby refused.

The state then appealed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the state’s request for a stay on the ruling but granted an expedited review of an appeal of the ruling.

3. Federal shutdown

The federal government partially shut down in October during a 16-day congressional stalemate, the result of the inability to pass a budget and attempts by congressional Republicans led by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and other members of the tea party caucus to stop or stall the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

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