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John Swallow lost computer hard drive on airplane, investigators say

Utah House panel to report its findings on ex-A.G. within 2 weeks

Published: Sunday, Dec. 8 2013 12:00 p.m. MST

Utah Attorney General John Swallow announces his resignation during a press conference at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Utah Attorney General John Swallow announces his resignation during a press conference at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — As the Utah House committee looking into now former Attorney General John Swallow started wrapping up its work, investigators discovered another missing electronic data device this past week.

Data on Swallow's work computer were copied to an external hard drive and apparently left on an airplane, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, the committee chairman, said Saturday. The hard drive was reported lost to the airline, but hasn't been found, he said.

Investigators earlier said Swallow's office computer was wiped clean when he got a new one when he took office in January.

Lost emails and computer files plagued the committee's four-month investigation that will all but end with a report of its findings in a public meeting sometime within the next two weeks. The panel's special counsel also will prepare a written report later for the House.

Utah Attorney General John Swallow announces his resignation during a press conference at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Utah Attorney General John Swallow announces his resignation during a press conference at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

"I think it's very important for the House of Representatives and the people of Utah to hear what we have learned," Dunnigan said, though he declined to characterize the findings.

The bipartisan committee met behind closed doors for nearly four hours Saturday before returning to unanimously approve a motion to hold the public meeting. It also authorized some limited investigation until then to "close some of the loops or connect the dots," he said.

The committee intended to start taking public testimony from witnesses when Swallow, a Republican, announced his resignation Nov. 21, saying he couldn't compete financially with the House investigation that he believed was out to get him. Dunnigan said he doesn't anticipate witnesses would testify at the meeting later this month.

Investigative Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Dunnigan talks with members of media in the speaker's office at the state Capitol in response to the announcement of Attorney General John Swallow's resignation on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Investigative Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Dunnigan talks with members of media in the speaker's office at the state Capitol in response to the announcement of Attorney General John Swallow's resignation on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

To date, the committee has spent $2.3 million, including $800,000 in the first three weeks of November on litigation to compel responses to subpoenas.

Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said he worries about the spending but said, "I do happen to think it's worth it."

In addition to court fees, trying to recover a large amount of data that investigators say was lost from every electronic device Swallow had during his time in the attorney general's office — including three years as chief deputy — drove up the cost of the investigation.

"I'm sure when we get to the end of this, a million dollars of our efforts will easily be attributed to either missing information or litigation from non compliance" with subpoenas, Dunnigan said. "If people would have complied, we could have avoided significant expense."

Swallow has said he didn't deliberately delete any data, and steadfastly denied allegations of influence peddling and campaign finance disclosure violations that dogged his 11 months in office.

The committee did issue two new subpoenas Friday to the attorney general's office and the Utah Department of Finance regarding processing online poker transactions, including any legal opinions as to whether the state permits it.

Indicted St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson claims Swallow told him in an email that it's legal in Utah for banks to process online poker transactions. Johnson owned interest in a bank and wanted to process poker proceeds.

Johnson and Swallow talked about it during a meeting Johnson secretly recorded at an Orem Krispy Kreme shop in April 2012. According to a transcript of the conversation, Swallow doesn't recall the email and tells Johnson the practice isn't legal.

House committee investigators have been pursuing that issue for a while and want to look at some additional documents, Dunnigan said, adding that both the attorney general's office and finance office agreed to comply with the subpoenas.

Dunnigan said he didn't know how the long the House investigation would have gone on had Swallow not resigned.

"The investigation has a lot of avenues. It seems like whenever you'd go down an avenue, other avenues would open up. It's likely that some of our findings will not be as complete as they might have been if we had more time and more resources," he said.

Dunnigan said committee investigators have been in close contact with others investigating Swallow, which would include Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings. Their investigators, including ones from the FBI and Utah Department of Public Safety, could pick up leads the House committee was not able to follow.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy; DNewsPolitics

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