Mark Shurtleff says new report based on 'tall tales,' vows to fight any charges

Published: Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:10 a.m. MDT

Former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff responded Wednesday to a new report that says his behavior during the case against a wealthy Salt Lake businessman "defies explanation."

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff seemed to have a message Wednesday for those investigating him for potential criminal charges: Bring it on.

"I'll say flat-out, I'll tell you right now, if I were to be charged, I'm going to win. They're going to lose. This is not something I'm going to lay down for," he told KSL NewsRadio's "The Doug Wright Show."

Shurtleff's comments came on the heels of a report released Tuesday that found his behavior while his office prosecuted a wealthy Salt Lake businessman "defies explanation."

Attorney General Sean Reyes hired two former federal prosecutors to investigate how the office dealt with two criminal cases against convicted felon Marc Sessions Jenson, who has accused Shurtleff and former Attorney General John Swallow of shaking him down for money and favors.

Shurtleff and Swallow are targets in an ongoing criminal investigation by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings. Investigators have obtained a large amount of data in the case through a series of search warrants. They believe the records are evidence for eight possible crimes, including receiving or soliciting a bribe or bribery by a public servant and misusing public money, according to court records.

Shurtleff said his "beef" with various investigative reports coming out, including one from the Utah House Special Investigative Committee, is that they only tell one side of the story.

"I'm anxious for the day when I get to fully set the record straight," he said in a statement.

When reached for comment Wednesday, Rawlings said "wisdom dictates that I not respond."

"Mr. Shurtleff is presumed innocent at this time. Significantly, as he has pointed out to me, Mark also has thousands more Twitter followers than I do," he said.

University of Utah law professor and former federal judge Paul Cassell and one-time acting U.S. Attorney for Utah Francis Wikstrom concluded that Jenson did not suffer any prejudice from the way his cases were prosecuted. But they found Shurtleff's actions and decisions "quite hard to understand or to rationalize."

Shurtleff said the assertion in their 63-page report that his conduct in the Jenson case "defies explanation is only because they did not have my just explanation."

"What truly defies explanation is why the state spent money on a one-sided, incomplete report that is based on the self-serving jailhouse lies of a convicted felon," he said. "He came up with these stories after we put him in prison, and he's trying to get out."

Reyes said he called for the investigation to fix any prior misconduct that comes to light in the office. The governor appointed Reyes as attorney general after Swallow resigned last December amid allegations of influence peddling.

Jenson filed a court petition alleging impropriety in the attorney general's office during his prosecution and is seeking his release from prison. He asked the court to hold a hearing on the allegations, and the report recommends the attorney general's office agree to that.

Marcus Mumford, Jenson's attorney, called the report a good start. He said it corroborates what other investigations, including the House committee, have found.

The state spent $140,000 on the three-month investigation in which Cassell and Wikstrom interviewed 20 people, including Jenson, and combed through documents and electronic data. They noted that Shurtleff and Swallow declined to be interviewed for the report.

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