Allegations of corruption land on Shurtleff, Swallow

Published: Tuesday, July 15 2014 7:25 p.m. MDT

Updated: Wednesday, July 16 2014 6:11 p.m. MDT

"I absolutely maintain my innocence, and this is just a process. Thank goodness we have a Constitution. We are presumed innocent until we're proven guilty. And I look forward to my day in court to confront my accusers and to share my side of the story for really the first time," he said.

Attorney General Sean Reyes, a Republican whom Gov. Gary Herbert appointed to the post after Swallow resigned last December, called it a difficult day in the history of the office.

"Sadly, two men who served as leaders of our office have been charged with crimes alleged to have taken place during their administrations. I do not prejudge them and fully recognize that every defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence. Neither do I defend or condone any of the alleged conduct," he said.

Reyes' Democratic opponent in the upcoming election, Charles Stormont, said the arrests disappointed and saddened him.

"A cloud continues to hang over the attorney general’s office. Fundamental structural reforms in the office are long overdue, yet nothing has been done to ensure these problems never happen again," said Stormont, who took leave as an assistant attorney general to run for the top job.

Building a case

Allegations of wrongdoing against Swallow surfaced in early January 2013, just a week into his term as attorney general. Shurtleff, who didn't seek re-election after 12 years in office, hired Swallow as his chief deputy in 2009 and groomed him as his heir apparent.

Indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson claimed Swallow helped arrange a $600,000 payment to enlist Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in an effort to derail a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Johnson's Internet marketing enterprise, iWorks.

During the next 18 months, details of Swallow and Shurtleff's questionable activities trickled and sometimes cascaded out from various sources, including imprisoned businessman Marc Sessions Jenson.

The accusations spawned state and federal investigations and led the Utah House of Representatives to create a special investigative committee last summer.

The committee concluded after a four-month, $4 million investigation that Swallow "hung a veritable 'for sale' sign" on his office door. It also alleged that Swallow destroyed a voluminous amount of computer and cellphone data and falsified documents.

The lieutenant governor's office launched a probe that found Swallow violated financial disclosure laws in his 2012 campaign.

While the House probe focused on Swallow because he was the current officeholder, it also unearthed information about Shurtleff.

The U.S. Department of Justice Public Integrity Section also jumped in but last September declined to file criminal charges against Shurtleff or Swallow. Both men contend that decision should have been good enough for Gill and Rawlings.

Frustration with DOJ

Gill expressed frustration with what the Department of Justice "did or did not do" with the case, saying it delayed the investigation and failed to subpoena key witnesses.

"This case is not something we should be prosecuting as local prosecutors," he said.

Even though the DOJ ended its investigation, several local FBI agents stayed on the case, working with state and county investigators.

Mary Rook, FBI special agent-in-charge in Salt Lake City, said public corruption is one of the agency's top priorities. She said the FBI uses whatever avenues available in that pursuit, including cooperating with local law enforcement.

"Left unchecked, corruption can erode the public trust of the citizens in their government and undermine those institutions which exist to serve the public," she said.

Other players

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