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Jenson's attorney alleges threat; Swallow aide denies it

Published June 24, 2013 9:09 pm

Political scandal • Chief deputy A.G. denies the allegation.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

An attorney for businessman Marc Sessions Jenson says a top official in the Utah Attorney General's Office threatened him over the weekend in the wake of his client publicly accusing Attorney General John Swallow of extorting gifts and favors.

Attorney Marcus Mumford reported that Chief Deputy Attorney General Kirk Torgensen called Mumford's law partner Friday and, in the course of a 15-minute call, said Mumford and his team need "to be careful."

"Mr. Torgensen further indicated that he was personally a witness in the case, that he was disgusted with the actions of Mr. Swallow," Mumford told the judge.

Mumford said his partner believed the tone was menacing, rather than friendly advice.

"It's saying to me they've got me in their sights. They've got my office in their cross-hairs somehow. But if they think that's going to have any impact, they've got another thing coming," Mumford said after a court hearing Monday. "I think it's time for the people of Utah to stop letting their prosecutors act like thugs."

Torgensen said Monday that he had called Mumford's partner, Bret Rawson, a longtime friend whom Torgensen had taught at a police academy, and urged him to be careful with the facts.

"I said to Bret, please, there's a lot of stuff out there and ways people want to spin stuff. Just make sure it's fair, it's accurate," Torgensen said. "Unequivocally, there was absolutely no threat in it."

Scott Reed, head of the criminal division in the attorney general's office and the prosecutor on the Jenson case, said the call was "news to me."

"I have no idea what threats they're talking about," Reed said.

Jenson appeared in handcuffs, ankle shackles and a white prison jumpsuit for a status hearing in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court on a series of charges that he and his brother, Stephen Jenson, defrauded investors in Mount Holly, a $3.5 billion golf and ski resort planned in Beaver.

Marc Sessions Jenson is already behind bars after failing to make $4.1 million in restitution payments as part of a plea deal on securities charges.

Earlier this month, Jenson's attorneys filed court papers seeking to have the entire attorney general's office disqualified from prosecuting the Mount Holly case, alleging that Swallow, his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, and Shurtleff's friend Tim Lawson engaged in a shakedown of their client.

They say Jenson paid Lawson more than $200,000 over a period of about 18 months, and Shurtleff and Swallow stayed at Pelican Hill, Jenson's luxurious Newport Beach, Calif., villa and charged hundreds of dollars in meals, golf and spa treatments to Jenson.

Swallow, in a letter to legislators last week, insisted that at least one of the receipts Jenson provided as proof of their visits is a forgery, but he did not say who he believes had signed his initials to a shopping spree at the Pelican Hill pro shop. He also does not dispute he took three trips to Pelican Hill and that Jenson paid some of the expenses.

Shurtleff, Swallow, Lawson, Torgensen and Reed are on a list of people whom Jenson has agreed to provide information about, under the terms of an immunity agreement with Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.

Department of Commerce Director Francine Giani also is on the list. Gill and Rawlings, however, said the names on the agreement were provided by Jenson's attorneys and "one or more" of the six are considered to be a "key witness."

Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills scheduled a hearing for Aug. 5 on the motion to disqualify the attorney general's office from the case.

During Monday's hearing, Reed said that "for more than two years, the attorney general's executive office has been walled off from this case." Swallow signed a letter in June 2011, recusing himself from having any access or influence on the Jenson case.

After the hearing, Reed said the Jenson case has been handled no differently from any other.

Jenson remains in protective custody in the Davis County Jail and was escorted to court Monday by two Department of Corrections guards. Jenson's attorneys alleged that their client's life was put in danger at the Utah State Prison after he began talking to federal and local officials investigating the allegations against Swallow.

Two Corrections officials denied last week that Jenson was treated any differently from any other inmate.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke