Las Vegas Sun

September 2, 2014

Currently: 96° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Prosecutor: 2 ex-Utah attorneys general arrested

Image

Salt Lake County Sheriff / AP

This combination of Tuesday, July 15, 2014 photos provided by the Salt Lake County Sheriff shows former Utah attorneys general Mark Shurtleff, left, and John Swallow who were taken into custody Tuesday as part of a bribery investigation. The arrests come just over a year after two county attorneys began scrutinizing Shurtleff and Swallow’s relationships with several businessmen in trouble with regulators.

Updated Tuesday, July 15, 2014 | 12:15 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Two former Utah attorneys general were arrested on a battery of bribery charges Tuesday stemming from their cozy relationships with several businessmen, a stunning fall for a pair of politicians who built immense political clout in their years at the highest level of state law enforcement.

John Swallow, 51, and Mark Shurtleff, 56, were arrested at their homes Tuesday morning, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said at a news conference at the FBI office in Salt Lake City.

"This is a sad day for Utah," Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement Tuesday. "The entire situation, regardless of how the legal process plays out, is a black eye for our state."

Court records show John Swallow faces 13 charges, including felony bribery charges, while Shurtleff faces 10 counts that include bribery. The most serious charges for each man come with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Gill said the investigation, which the FBI is assisting on, is ongoing and additional charges will likely be filed against both former attorneys general and other individuals.

When he walked out of jail Tuesday afternoon, Swallow told reporters that he'd known for a few weeks that this was likely to happen.

"I absolutely maintain my innocence. We refute the charges," he said. "This finally gives us the opportunity to start to respond back."

Swallow said he looks forward to making his case in court "to confront my accusers and to share my side of the story for really the first time."

Shurtleff declined to comment when he walked out of jail Tuesday. He said he planned to speak at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Shurtleff's attorney Max Wheeler did not answer calls Tuesday morning.

Gill said both men are accused of accepting at least $50,000 in cash or campaign contributions from people who faced or were about to face scrutiny from the attorney general's office. They used a luxury jet and personal property belonging to a businessman in trouble with regulators, authorities said. Swallow also used the businessman's million-dollar houseboat on Lake Powell, according to officials.

They stayed at a high-end Newport Beach resort where they enjoyed meals, golf, clothing and massages paid for by another businessman who had been charged months earlier with fraud by the Utah attorney general's office.

They're also accused of trying to cover up the alleged schemes.

Both have denied all the allegations.

Swallow resigned in late 2013 after spending nearly 11 months dogged by the bribery and corruption allegations. Swallow adamantly denied breaking any laws and said the toll of the scrutiny had become too much for him and his family.

The first bombshell allegations dropped less than a week after Swallow took the oath of office in January 2013, when a businessman in trouble with federal regulators accused Swallow of arranging a bribery plot involving Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Reid and Swallow denied the allegations.

In the months following, the accusations and investigations snowballed, and led to probes by the U.S. Department of Justice, Utah elections officials and the state bar.

An investigation from Utah lawmakers concluded Swallow destroyed and fabricated records and hung a veritable "for sale" sign on the door of the attorney general's office.

Swallow denied the allegations and said any missing records were deleted unintentionally.

Shurtleff, his predecessor, is Utah's longest-serving attorney general. He left the office in early 2013, but allegations of corruption followed him.

Swallow served as chief deputy for Shurtleff from 2009 to early 2013.

Officials with the state's pretrial services have agreed to let Shurtleff and Swallow out without posting bail, court records show. Their initial court appearances have not yet been set.

Associated Press reporters Brady McCombs, Annie Knox and Rick Bowmer in Salt Lake City and Michelle Rindels in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy