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Dem lawyers ask feds to reopen Swallow, Shurtleff probe

Published February 20, 2014 10:26 pm

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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A group of Democratic attorneys wants the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen its investigation of former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff, citing concerns about the adequacy of the previous inquiry.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Utah Democratic Lawyers Council (UDLC) pointed to the findings by a Utah House committee of widespread lost, erased and missing data that had belonged to Swallow.

The group also wants the Justice Department to look into the relationship between Swallow and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Ward, who previously was handling the prosecution of Jeremy Johnson, the St. George businessman facing a slew of fraud-related felony charges.

Ward has said he spoke with Swallow only once. Due to a court-imposed gag order, Ward could not discuss a proposed plea deal with Johnson that would have given Swallow immunity in relation to the indicted businessman's I Works case. Swallow has denied asking for or being offered immunity.

"It is difficult to understand how the U.S. attorney's office could have conducted the type of thorough investigation the public is entitled to without, at a minimum, looking at Mr. Swallow's devices and electronic communications, and considering the extent of the missing data," UDLC President Blaine Carlton said. "With the corruption problems affecting the Utah attorney general's office, the public's confidence in the U.S. attorney is more important now than ever before."

In November, Steven Reich, special counsel for the bipartisan House committee investigating Swallow, said he doubted that federal investigators were aware of the missing documents.

U.S. Attorney for Utah David Barlow confirmed in January his office was investigating allegations against Swallow. In May, Barlow's office recused itself, turning over the matter to the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section. In September, the department notified Swallow and Shurtleff, both Republicans, that it would not file charges.

Since then, the FBI has continued to work with state law officers and top prosecutors from Salt Lake and Davis counties, investigating whether any state laws were broken. That probe is still underway and has yielded felony charges against Shurtleff confidant Tim Lawson.

The House committee is scheduled to meet Friday. Swallow, who has proclaimed his innocence, resigned as attorney general in early December.