Former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff were arrested on Tuesday and charged in a massive public corruption scandal.
The charges, which include nearly two dozen felony counts of bribery and obstruction of justice, were brought by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill following an investigation by state legislators that began more than a year ago.
In court records filed with Salt Lake County’s Third District Court, Utah’s state prosecutors allege that Shurtleff and Swallow, both Republicans, began in 2008 to regularly accept bribes and lavish trips from local businesses and campaign donors in exchange for their assistance.
Shurtleff, who served as attorney general between 2001 and 2013, faces 10 felony counts, including receiving or soliciting a bribe, tampering with evidence and obstructing justice. Swallow, a former chief deputy who became attorney general in 2013, faces 11 felony counts and two misdemeanors, including receiving or soliciting a bribe, misusing public money, making false statements, tampering with evidence, obstructing justice and falsifying government records.
Shurtleff’s attorney, Max Wheeler of counsel to Snow, Christensen & Martineau in Salt Lake City, and Swallow’s attorney, Stephen McCaughey of the Law Offices of Stephen R. McCaughey in Salt Lake City, did not respond to requests for comment. Swallow previously has been represented by Rodney Snow, president of Salt Lake City’s ClydeSnow, who also did not respond to a request for comment.
The accused protested their innocence. “We are presumed innocent until we’re proven guilty,” Swallow said, as reported by the Deseret News. “And I look forward to my day in court to confront my accusers and to share my side of the story for really the first time.”
Shurtleff said: “I have made mistakes and errors in judgment. But I have never intentionally committed any breaches of professional ethics, misused or abused my office of public trust, and certainly never violated the criminal laws of this state or our nation.”
State prosecutors announced the charges at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Salt Lake City office, even though the Department of Justice’s public integrity unit declined to prosecute the case.
The charges followed an investigation by the Utah House of Representatives. In a March 11 report, a special investigative committee concluded that Swallow had “hung a veritable ‘for sale’ sign on the office door” of the attorney general’s office.
“After careful investigation, the committee concluded that Mr. Swallow had breached the public trust and engaged in conduct that demanded he be held accountable,” said Steven Reich, a partner in the New York office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, who advised the committee. “The filing of today’s criminal charges is a critical step in holding him accountable and in restoring the public’s trust in its institutions of government.”
Much of the criminal case against Swallow and Shurtleff concerns a businessman in St. George, Utah, who was indicted by the U.S. attorney’s office in Utah in 2011 for alleged consumer fraud. Prosecutors allege that Swallow and Shurtleff intervened to help Jeremy Johnson, who had donated $50,000 to Shurtleff’s re-election campaign, operate a business that processed online poker payments. Swallow also connected Johnson, who faced a Federal Trade Commission investigation, with Richard Rawle, a local payday lender, now deceased, who had donated to Swallow’s unsuccessful congressional campaign in 2004.
Rawle purportedly had contacts in the office of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. In 2010, Johnson paid Rawle’s consulting business $250,000, and Rawle kicked back more than $23,000 to Swallow, according to prosecutors.
Meantime, Swallow and Shurtleff used Johnson’s airplane and houseboat for family trips.
Prosecutors allege that Shurtleff dismissed a mortgage fraud lawsuit against Bank of America, despite the recommendations of his staff, while negotiating for a job with Troutman Sanders, which represents the bank. Shurtleff, who joined the Washington office of Troutman Sanders last year, resigned from the firm less than six months later.
Troutman Sanders spokesman Michael Kulstad declined to comment.
The charges also related to a federal securities fraud case against Marc Sessions Jenson, for whom Shurtleff allegedly arranged a lenient plea deal in 2008.
The charges also focus on Swallow’s alleged attempts to destroy or alter evidence of the bribery scheme.
Contact Amanda Bronstad at email@example.com.