Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
FILE - Utah Attorney General John Swallow speaks out Jan. 14, 2013, in his office at the state Capitol about allegations that he was involved in improper deals.

-SALT LAKE CITY — The state has asked a 3rd District Court judge to toss out former Utah Attorney General John Swallow's claim for $1.5 million in attorney fees he racked up defending himself against public corruption charges last year.

Swallow was not an officer or employee of the attorney general's office when he was acquitted of the criminal charges against him so he isn't eligible for reimbursement under Utah law, state attorneys argue in a March 26 court filing.

And even if Swallow wins in court, the attorney general's office says it doesn't have the money to pay him.

Swallow, a Republican, contends that as a public official who was acquitted of a crime, he is entitled to be reimbursed for attorney fees and costs. He said because he was "erroneously" prosecuted he had to borrow money to defend himself.

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State prosecutors alleged that Swallow was part of a conspiracy with former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and the late Tim Lawson to extort money and favors from a wealthy businessman who had reached a plea deal with the attorney general's office.

A jury acquitted Swallow on all charges, prosecutors dropped the case against Shurtleff, and Lawson died before going to trial. Shurtleff also has a pending claim for more than $1 million in attorney fees.

In the court filing, state attorneys say Swallow must file a claim with the Board of Examiners, which would recommend to the Legislature whether it should appropriate money to pay him. The governor, state auditor and attorney general make up the board.