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Former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff wants to remove tie to John Swallow in criminal case

Published: Thursday, Sept. 4 2014 6:51 p.m. MDT

Former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff appears in 3rd District Court to make his first appearance as a criminal defendant at Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Shurtleff walks through the courthouse with attorney Richard Van Wagoner.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Mark Shurtleff does not want to be tied to John Swallow in the criminal case against the two former Utah attorneys general.

Shurtleff's attorney Rick Van Wagoner filed a motion in 3rd District Court on Thursday, saying Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has misled the public into believing the two would be tried together.

Prosecutors "cleverly but nominally mischaracterized" Shurtleff and Swallow as co-defendants in separate charging documents. He asked the court to remove the word "co-defendant," saying it has no meaning other than to expose the state's "poorly executed attempt at sleight of hand."

"The cases are not joined, were never joined and cannot be joined," Van Wagoner wrote.

Van Wagoner contends Gill has prejudiced Shurtleff with his "relentless media campaign and the endless reports of conjoining Mr. Shurtleff's name with allegations that are exclusive to Mr. Swallow." He said it makes the public and potential jurors think both men are responsible for each other's alleged motives and conduct as part of a grand conspiracy.

The state tries to lump Shurtleff and Swallow together even though they are not jointly charged in any of the alleged offenses, Van Wagoner said.

Gill said his office is reviewing the motion and intends to file a response.

Prosecutors charged Shurtleff with 10 felonies and Swallow with 11 felonies and two misdemeanors. If convicted, they each face as many as 30 years in jail.

Shurtleff faces three counts of bribery; two counts of illegally accepting gifts or loans and one count each of pattern of unlawful activity; accepting employment that would impair judgment; witness tampering; evidence tampering and obstructing justice.

Swallow was charged with three counts each of bribery and evidence tampering, and one count each of pattern of unlawful activity; accepting a gift when prohibited; making false statements; obstructing justice; misuse of public money; falsifying government records, and failing to disclose a conflict of interest.

The 23 total counts filed in July were the culmination of an unprecedented public corruption investigation by the Utah Department of Public Safety and the FBI. Both former attorneys general have maintained their innocence and said they intend to fight the charges, which they say are politically motivated.

Van Wagoner said Gill refuses to consider severing the Shurtleff and Swallow prosecutions, unless a judge orders them to stand trial. He said prosecutors insist the cases are joined and must be treated as one, at least through the preliminary hearing.

In the motion, Van Wagoner criticizes how the state filed the charges against Shurtleff, calling them "vague and imprecise." The charging document doesn't outline supporting facts for each allegation other than a date or loose range of dates, he said.

"As the court will see, putting them together in some meaningful way requires constitutionally suspect guesswork," Van Wagoner wrote.

Shurtleff and Swallow are next due in court for scheduling hearing on Oct. 20.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy

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