Tim Lawson, the first person charged in a sweeping investigation of alleged misconduct by two former Utah attorneys general, will remain behind bars at least until early February.
Lawson, who was arrested Dec. 12, is being held at the Salt Lake County jail in lieu of $250,000 bail.
On Monday, Chelsea Koch, who attended the hearing on behalf of Lawson’s new attorney Ron Yengich, asked 3rd District Judge Robin Reese for a bail reduction, possibly in conjunction with a GPS ankle monitor.
The judge refused, for now, but could change his mind after receiving additional information about the man who has been described as a friend, fundraiser and “fixer” for former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
Lawson will return to court Feb. 3.
Meanwhile, pre-trial screeners will evaluate the 49-year-old Provo man and compile a report for the court that addresses his likelihood to flee or pose a danger to the community.
With the evaluation in hand, the judge will revisit the defendant’s request for a bail reduction.
Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Blake Nakamura said the state’s position on Lawson’s bail remains unchanged.
“When we ask for bail at a certain level, it’s because we’re looking at a number of different factors, including public safety,” said Deputy Salt Lake County Attorney Blake Nakamura. “Right now, as far as we’re concerned, nothing has changed. Our concerns that caused us to set Mr. Lawson’s bail where it’s at, they remain.”
Prosecutors in Salt Lake and Davis counties — who have been investigating former Attorney General John Swallow and his predecessor, Shurtleff — have charged Lawson with six felony counts, accusing him of intimidating witnesses, evading taxes, obstructing justice and participating in a pattern of unlawful conduct.
All told, Lawson could face up to 50 years in prison if convicted of all six charges.
Last month, state investigators working with county attorneys obtained a search warrant for cellphone records about calls and texts by Shurtleff and others.
The warrant, signed last month by 3rd District Judge Vernice Trease, demands records from two phones used by Shurtleff since 2007, as well as those used by Lawson.
Several more search warrants signed by Trease were released last week and allege that a well-connected campaign consultant for Swallow filed bogus tax documents to hide the activities of a shadowy political organization.
In addition to Lawson’s six felony charges, the search warrant states that investigators are looking at other possible felonies in the case, specifically bribing a public official, evidence tampering, misusing public money and bribery to prevent criminal prosecution.
Lawson’s newly appointed defense team declined to comment on the ongoing investigation Monday, as the lawyers had just received the case that day, they said.
Lawson had been represented at his first court appearance by Dana Facemyer, who withdrew from the case late last month.
Prosecutors said Monday that it could take a “prolonged bail hearing” to determine the appropriate amount to be set in this case.
“Our position — and the court’s position — could change as we get more information,” Nakamura said.
The charges against Lawson
Count 1 • Pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony, apparently related to payments from businessman Marc Sessions Jenson.
Count 2 • Tax violation, a second-degree felony, for allegedly failing to pay taxes on monies that came from Jenson.
Count 3 • Tax violation, a third-degree felony, also apparently related to the Jenson monies.
Count 4 • Retaliation against a witness, victim or informant, a third-degree felony, for a Dec. 16, 2009, voice mail Lawson left for Jeffrey Donner, a Colorado resident who was trying to recover $1.5 million he invested in Jenson’s Mount Holly development.
Count 5 • Obstructing justice, a third-degree felony, for a March 4, 2013, phone call in which Lawson allegedly provided false information to Kirk Torgensen, chief deputy over the criminal division in the attorney general’s office.
Count 6 • Obstructing justice, a third-degree felony, for allegedly providing false information during an Aug. 27, 2013, interview with FBI agents.