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Investigator squabbling may have hindered Swallow probe
Legislature » Some evidence didn’t wind up in final House report.

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Portions of those Johnson recordings, along with the Marker statement, then became part of a supplemental report that Lindquist and Casper presented to Dunnigan in mid-January.

Redd said she was willing to offer even more recordings, including copies of meetings Johnson had with Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Ward and other prosecutors during plea negotiations, which ultimately collapsed.

At a glance

About the House report

The Republican-dominated Utah House created a nine-member bipartisan committee to investigate then-Attorney General John Swallow. The probe, which cost about $4 million, discovered that Swallow had lost or deleted untold volumes of electronic records — from hard drives, computers and hand-held devices. Investigators determined Swallow had fostered a pay-to-play culture in the attorney general’s office. Their final report also alleged he fabricated documents and destroyed evidence as part of a frenzied scheme to cover up inappropriate and politically damaging ties to questionable donors.

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So, on Jan. 13, Redd emailed Ward, who by this time had stepped down as lead prosecutor in the Johnson case after a failed bid to replace Swallow as attorney general. Redd wrote that she was "inclined" to give House investigators all the audio in her possession but warned that "several of the recordings are of you and others in your office, and I wanted to double-check before I do. Please let me know ASAP."

The next morning, Ward replied: "Thank you. Someone from our office will contact you in the next day or two."

He copied the email to other prosecutors along with Phil Viti, his boss in the U.S. attorney’s office for Utah.

Ten minutes later, Redd received a message from Viti: "Please do not respond to this person either by phone or email until we discuss."

Redd interpreted that message to mean that she was not to cooperate any more with House investigators and said she began to worry she had made a mistake in contacting federal prosecutors.

"That’s when I shut off my phone," Redd recalled, "and I went up and went to bed."

But Viti’s message, explained U.S. attorney’s office spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch, was meant for Ward and his fellow prosecutors, not for Redd. Viti had clicked "reply all," not realizing that the St. George woman would be included in the email chain. Later that morning, Redd told Viti that she had given some audio files to House investigators, but noted she "did not give them any of the recordings of people in your office and I am not planning on talking to them anymore."

Redd said no one from the U.S. attorney’s office ever contacted her about her emails, the recordings or to say that Viti’s reply was not intended for her.

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As a courtesy, Viti forwarded Redd’s emails to FBI supervisory special agent Michelle Pickens, Johnson attorney Ron Yengich and Reich, Rydalch said.

Reich subsequently had a phone conversation with Dunnigan, and the Taylorsville lawmaker then "fired" Lindquist and Casper, according to Redd.

Reich referred emails seeking comment for this story to Utah officials.

Dunnigan acknowledged investigators had their differences.

"I would say they just had different styles," he said.

Lindquist and Casper declined to speak for this story, citing contractual obligations.

But on his LinkedIn web page, Casper said his and Lindquist’s contract with the House was "terminated by the committee chairman" on Jan. 15, and that he did not participate in the preparation of the final report.

Dunnigan and Legislative General Counsel John Fellows insist there was no firing and that the two Utah-based investigators simply were told no more money would be spent on investigations. The Lindquist contract cost about $42,000.

Fellows also said that Lindquist had been asked to provide transcripts of the recordings she had obtained.

"We reviewed those transcripts and determined that they contained minimal information pertaining to John Swallow," Fellows said, and "were not relevant to our investigation."

Much of that information, however, might prove useful to the criminal investigation being conducted by two county prosecutors.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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