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Ex-chief deputy A.G. placed on leave day after search warrant is unsealed

Published: Wednesday, April 9 2014 5:43 p.m. MDT

The Utah Attorney General's Office placed Kirk Torgensen, seen in this 2010 photo, on paid administrative leave Wednesday. Torgensen was chief deputy attorney general for both former Attorneys General Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow. The decision came one day after a search warrant seeking his iPhone as part of an investigation into Swallow and Shurtleff was unsealed.

T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's former chief deputy attorney general to both Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow was placed on administrative leave Wednesday, a day after a search warrant seeking his iPhone was unsealed.

"Mr. (Kirk) Torgensen was placed on paid administrative leave today pending further internal investigations. We will not comment further at this time on such investigations or any other external investigations that may be proceeding," the attorney general's office said in a prepared statement. "We emphasize that there is a presumption of innocence for any of our employees during an internal investigative process."

Torgensen had been relieved of his chief deputy position after Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes took office in late December, and had yet to be placed in a permanent position before Wednesday's decision.

The iPhone belonging to Torgensen was seized in January as part of ongoing investigations of Swallow and Shurtleff, Utah's two previous attorneys general, according to a newly unsealed search warrant.

A judge approved a search warrant for investigators to seize Torgensen's phone to investigate the possible crimes of obstruction of justice, tampering with a witness, retaliation against a victim, witness or informant, and bribery.

A public records request filed by investigators on Oct. 22 asked for "any and all communication in any manner whatsoever with or between John Swallow, Kirk Torgensen, and Paul Murphy and Jason Powers, Seth Crossley, Jessica Fawson, and or Renae Cowley," according to the warrant.

A Nov. 27 warrant sought the phone records of Shurtleff, Torgensen and Tim Lawson, a longtime friend of Shurtleff's who is charged with retaliating against witnesses, witness tampering, obstructing justice, bribery, falsifying tax information to hide income and failing to pay taxes.

On Jan. 7, Torgensen sent partial screen shots of his text conversations to the Utah Department of Public Safety investigator, the warrant states. When the agent called Torgensen, he allegedly said he wasn't going to turn over his phone, stating that he'd be willing to let investigators look at messages from numbers that were "relevant."

On Jan. 8, a confidential informant told investigators that Torgensen mentioned that he had "text messages on his phone from Mark Shurtleff that were 'insurance,'" according to the warrant.

Torgensen told investigators he was willing to share messages on his phone between himself and Shurtleff, but he again did not want to give up the contents of his entire phone, saying he "did not want others seeing what he communicates with his wife or mother," the warrant states.

The November search warrant describes trips Lawson arranged for Shurtleff to the luxury Pelican Hill resort in Southern California, where now-imprisoned businessman Marc Sessions Jenson lived in 2009. Jenson paid for the trips.

Jenson paid Lawson $120,000 to gain access to Shurtleff, according to court documents. Lawson allegedly told people that Shurtleff "brings him in to solve tough problems" and that he and Shurtleff are "real tight."

During one of the trips, Shurtleff told Jenson, who was on probation at the time, that if he had contributed to his election campaign, "he would never have been in trouble in the first place," according to court documents.

Jenson is serving a 10-year sentence for failing to pay $4.1 million in restitution after reaching a plea deal for selling unregistered securities.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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