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Who might be next? Swallow-Shurtleff saga may be far from over

Published July 16, 2014 7:55 am

What's ahead • More key players in the scandal may be charged; protracted, pricey court battles loom.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Often, when the men in suits come to the door and haul someone away, it is the end of a story. The final chapter. The closing scene.

But on Tuesday, as former Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff were escorted from their homes and driven to the Salt Lake County Jail in unmarked police cars, investigators said, it was only the beginning.

Court proceedings loom, of course, but more arrests may be on the horizon, too.

The criminal cases against Swallow and Shurtleff — charged with multiple felonies — will likely be lengthy and complex, officials said. Several investigations are still underway.

READ MORE: The charges Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow face

"This is absolutely not over," Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said in an interview. "There are several people who have been a part of the conversation, and some people who have come up that we hadn't thought about before. As you get more information, you have to chase it down and flesh it out. We'll continue to pursue leads as our investigation continues."

Two of those people, men who have been named in search warrants and previous investigations, expressed, through their attorneys, little concern about their own chances of ending up in police custody.

Kirk Torgensen, a top deputy to Shurtleff and Swallow and a fixture for years in the attorney general's office, was placed on administrative leave earlier this year. His text messages with Shurtleff have been the subject of search warrants and news reports.

But, according to his lawyer, Brett Tolman, Torgensen doesn't expect to be implicated in the snowballing scandal.

Tolman said Torgensen, who was one of those who sought an investigation, saw his cooperation as a measure of "vindication," and Tolman doesn't anticipate his client to be charged.

"I don't think someone who was telling Mark he shouldn't have been going on these trips and doing these things should be charged," Tolman said. "[Torgensen] wasn't involved in any of these boondoggles. He wasn't going on trips or getting payments from any of these companies."

Jason Powers, a former Swallow campaign consultant, who has been accused of setting up a nonprofit group that allowed Swallow to conceal contributions, mainly from payday lenders, also insisted he was not a part of any wrongdoing.

"We don't believe Mr. Powers has committed any crimes," said his attorney, Wally Bugden, "and we certainly hope he won't be dragged into this and charged with any crimes."

When asked if Powers or Torgensen could be charged for their own actions or proximity to the alleged acts committed by Swallow and Shurtleff, Gill said, "You never know."

Gill's probe partner, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, declined to comment on specifics of the ongoing investigation, saying their investigative team still has months of work to do.

"At the end of the day," Rawlings said, "hopefully the truth emerges from this process."

For Swallow and Shurtleff, the legal process has also just begun.

No initial court dates were immediately set.

Swallow, who proclaimed his innocence as he was released from jail Tuesday morning, has no intentions of settling this case in a plea deal, said his attorney Stephen McCaughey.

"He's always maintained his innocence — from day one," McCaughey said. "I think this will go to trial."

McCaughey said he doesn't believe his client will be charged with any more crimes — "[investigators] have had two years to figure it out, so I think we're seeing all the charges they can come up with" — but acknowledged the path ahead will be a long one.

Among the chief challenges McCaughey anticipates, he said, isn't the charges or the evidence or the sometimes-grueling prosecution.

It's the press.

"When it comes time to pick a jury, you're going to need to find people who haven't heard about this case," he said. "That's going to be a problem."

A Utah State Bar investigation into the conduct of both ex-attorneys general also remains open. That probe, officials said, could result in discipline, a public reprimand or, in the most extreme cases, license suspension or disbarment.

Shurtleff confidant Tim Lawson was charged in December with six felonies.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @marissa_jae

Robert Gehrke contributed to this story.