Ravell Call, Deseret News
The Salt Lake City Federal Courthouse, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. A Salt Lake businessman and convicted felon who allegedly beat up a confidential informant wanted to talk about his association with former Attorney General John Swallow in federal court Thursday.

SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake businessman and convicted felon who allegedly beat up a confidential informant wanted to talk about his association with former Attorney General John Swallow in federal court Thursday.

In explaining to the judge why he should be released from jail on a witness tampering charge, Robert William Montgomery brought up the state's former top law enforcement official.

"I got involved with John Swallow because I wanted to change the world," Montgomery said.

His attorney, Cara Tangaro, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells quickly cut him off, and he sat down.

The case makes for another strange twist in the ongoing Swallow saga, which culminated in criminal charges last month against him and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff.

Montgomery, 35, hosted a fundraiser for Swallow's election campaign in 2012. Attendees included those who work in the online business opportunities industry. Montgomery once worked for indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson, whom he credits with getting him started in the online sales and marketing industry.

Internet marketers and telemarketers donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Swallow and Shurtleff's campaigns.

Tangaro said in court that the FBI has interviewed Montgomery on many occasions.

Montgomery; his two brothers, Michael C. Montgomery, 30, and JD Montgomery, 28; and Jeremy R. Ertmann, 36, are accused of beating up a man federal authorities say was a confidential informant who worked at Emmediate Credit Solutions, a credit repair company Robert Montgomery owns. Each faces one count of witness tampering.

Assistant U.S. attorney Bill Kendall told the judge Robert Montgomery called the informant, identified in court documents as A.T.H., a "rat" and said that he'll "see him in a (expletive) grave for being a rat." Kendall said the informant has talked to the FBI about whether Robert Montgomery's business is legal.

The Montgomery brothers held the victim, while Ertmann punched him in the face, breaking his nose, Kendall said.

Tangaro said the informant, who she said is a gang member with a lengthy criminal record, attacked Robert Montgomery on May 8 at the company's office after he picked up his last paycheck. She said it's unclear whether he quit or was fired.

Attorneys say the younger Montgomerys and Ertmann jumped in to defend Robert Montgomery. All three are supervisors at the company.

"Anything that happened was in self-defense," Tangaro told the judge.

Furthermore, she said Robert Montgomery did not know A.T.H. was a confidential informant or that his business was under investigation. She said prosecutors would have to prove the fight was with the specific intent to hinder the investigation.

Police came to the scene of the fight and issued citations to all five men involved, but no criminal charges were filed, Kendall said.

Also, Scott Nesbitt, a Utah Department of Public Safety agent who led the investigation into Swallow and Shurtleff, arrived at the scene and gave Robert Montgomery a business card, Tangaro said.

"We find that curious," she said.

The Montgomery brothers and Ertmann were arrested last Friday and were held in the Weber County Jail. Federal prosecutors initially wanted them to stay in custody pending a trial scheduled to start Oct. 20.

But on Thursday, Kendall asked the judge to release them pending trial despite their lengthy criminal histories that include violence, drugs, burglary and numerous failures to appear in court, mostly on traffic offenses.

Wells reluctantly agreed to release all four with pretrial supervision, saying she only did it on the government's recommendation and because the evidence against them doesn't seem strong.

In 2004, a federal judge sentenced Robert Montgomery to prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was released in 2007. Robert Montgomery was convicted of manufacture of unlawful telecommunications device, a third-degree felony, in state court in 2000.

"I was a piece of garbage. Hopefully, I'm not today," he told the judge. He said hasn't used drugs since 1997.

"All I do is work every day," said Robert Montgomery, who also owns Concepts Execution, a company that teaches people how to start online businesses. "I'm not a troublemaker."

Last year, the Utah Division of Consumer Protection fined the company $25,000 for violations of the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act, the Utah Telephone Fraud Prevention Act and the Postsecondary Proprietary Schools Act.

Robert Montgomery agreed to pay $12,500 in a settlement and desist from any violations for at least 18 months.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy