Nevada judge won't halt federal lawsuit against Jeremy Johnson
A federal court handed Jeremy Johnson a victory Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du refused a government request to halt a civil lawsuit in Nevada against the St. George businessman while prosecutors pursue a criminal case in Utah.
The U.S. attorney's office in Salt Lake City had argued Johnson, while acting as his own lawyer, was using the Las Vegas case to intimidate potential witnesses and influence the Utah proceedings, in which he and four others face 86 criminal counts related to alleged bank fraud.
But Du ruled that a stay in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lawsuit in Nevada against Johnson and others who worked at his I Works company would be "inappropriate under the circumstances" because it would further delay the case's outcome.
Such a suspension would impose a "heavy burden" on the defendants, who already have had assets seized and are under other restrictions, the judge said. It also would delay any return of funds to consumers. Du said any improper influence or intimidation of witnesses would violate court orders already in place and should be brought to her attention.
The judge lifted a temporary halt in the Nevada case and gave the parties a little more than a month to question possible witnesses and finish gathering evidence. Johnson has sought to depose Utah Attorney General John Swallow in the case.
Under a gag order in Utah's criminal case, Johnson declined to comment on Du's decision.
Karra Porter, a Salt Lake City attorney who represents Johnson's wife, parents, I Works and other related entities in the Nevada suit, welcomed the ruling.
"It means we get the discovery we need for our side of the case just like the government was previously able to do for its side of the case," Porter said. "It also means we won't have to wait years to get our day in court." The U.S. attorney's office for Utah declined to comment.
The FTC sued Johnson in December 2010, alleging he and fellow I Works officials defrauded consumers out of millions through unauthorized credit- or debit-card billings.
Johnson was arrested in June 2011 on a related mail-fraud charge and eventually indicted on 86 counts.
He and the others dispute the allegations in both cases. No trial dates have been set.