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Latest from the John Swallow corruption trial: Campaign organizer says Swallow told donors contributions were not ‘fire insurance’ or protection

First Published      Last Updated Feb 21 2017 12:33 pm

John Swallow's public corruption trial moves into its eighth day Friday — halfway through the planned 16 days the court has scheduled for the proceedings.

It may not, however, be close to being done.

Much of the testimony has been slower than anticipated and prosecutors are a bit behind in calling witnesses.

One significant delay during the past week: The refusal of imprisoned St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson to testify.

Johnson took the stand for the first time Wednesday and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. On the advice of his attorneys, he has also refused to accept an immunity deal offered to him by Salt Lake County prosecutors out of fear that it wouldn't protect him from prosecution by the federal government.




Third District Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills found Johnson in contempt and sent him to jail for 30 days. On Thursday, Johnson took the witness stand and again declined to testify.

The latest from Day 8 of the trial:

3:10 p.m.

Renae Cowley, a lobbyist who ran John Swallow's campaign for attorney general, testified that Swallow never promised donors any favors. Rather, he told donors that contributions were not "fire insurance" or protection.

Cowley's testimony began with responses to questions about an August 2012 fundraiser hosted by Timothy and Jennifer Bell.

(Swallow made a call on the Bells' behalf to lobbyists for the Bank of America, which was foreclosing on the Bells' luxury home. The Bells received a loan modification, and Swallow allegedly told lobbyists that the state would withdraw its intervention in the Bells' lawsuit over the foreclosure.)

A few days after the fundraiser, Kirk Torgensen, then-chief deputy Utah attorney general, called and told Cowley the fundraiser was a "poor decision" because the Bells were involved in a state foreclosure lawsuit.

Cowley says she didn't know the cost of the event, but guessed it was about $1,000, based on comparisons with other events.

Cowley says she never saw receipts for the Bell fundraiser, but thought the reported $25,000 cost was unreasonably high. She said there was talk about the actual value of the fundraiser and amending the disclosure report because the high cost would raise red flags.

Cowley says after conversations with John Swallow and campaign consultant Jason Powers, she called Timothy Bell to ask him to amend the campaign disclosure to $1,000. Bell amended the disclosure after the election in January 2013.

Cowley says she has always cooperated with investigators, but later had a search warrant served on her home.

She said agents in riot gear came to her home, searched computer and phone, and then didn't seal the warrants to protect her.

Cowley started to cry as she noted that the raid had occurred after she had provided her computer files and other information to investigators.

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