Arrest of former Utah attorneys general called 'black eye' for state

Following a two-year investigation, two former Utah attorneys general were arrested Tuesday and charged with multiple corruption-related felonies, including bribery and obstruction of justice.

Rick Bowmer/AP
In this Nov. 21, 2013, file photo, Utah Attorney General John Swallow looks down during a news conference announcing that he is stepping down amid multiple investigations of bribery and misconduct, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. Swallow and former Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff were arrested on a battery of bribery charges Tuesday stemming from their cozy relationships with several businessmen, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said at a news conference at the FBI office in Salt Lake City.

Two former Utah attorneys general were arrested by federal agents yesterday and charged with corruption-related felonies that, if they are found guilty, could lead to prison sentences of up to 30 years.

Mark Shurtleff, who served as the state’s attorney general from January 2001 to January 2013, was charged with 10 felonies, including witness tampering, bribery, and obstruction of justice.

John Swallow, who served in the same position from January to December 2013 before resigning amid allegations of improprieties, was charged with 12 related offenses.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who led the two-year investigation, said that more charges would follow, and that the investigation was ongoing.

“Multiple leads continue to be investigated, [and] the investigation remains active," Mr. Gill said to The Salt Lake Tribune. "We have filed what we think are appropriate and minimal charges. We could have filed more, but we chose at this time to just file what we did.”

The allegations have rocked Utah’s political establishment, with multiple high-ranking officials calling it a scar on the state’s public image. Gov. Gary Herbert (R) called it a “black eye … regardless of how the legal process plays out.”

According to court records, Mr. Swallow and Mr. Shurtleff were both charged with receiving and soliciting bribes, accepting gifts, tampering with evidence and witnesses, and obstructing justice.

Swallow also faces charges of misuse of public funds, making false statements to investigators, failing to disclose conflicts of interest, and falsifying entries into government records.

Among other alleged improprieties, investigators say both men accepted illegal gifts from the now-indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson at a time when Mr. Johnson was seeking a legal opinion that would allow his online poker franchise to operate in Utah. Both men repeatedly rode in his private jet and stayed in his luxury houseboat on Lake Powell, court documents allege.

Lawyers for the former attorneys general alleged that the investigation was politically motivated. Gill, the district attorney, is a Democrat, while the suspects are Republicans.

“Everything that went on in this investigation was immediately leaked to the press,” Max Wheeler, an attorney for Shurtleff, said to The Tribune. “There were numerous stories about what the investigation was finding, what the witnesses were saying … what documents they had, what documents they didn’t have.”

Gill, however, defended the investigation, noting that he worked with Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, a Republican, and that other high-ranking Republicans assisted in the two-year investigation.

“There are two different prosecutors from two jurisdictions,” he said. “There was a bipartisan investigation by the [Utah] House. There was an investigation done by a Republican lieutenant governor. … . There is absolutely no political motivation. These are serious crimes.”

This report includes material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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