John Swallow mentioned during federal court assault case
During a federal court hearing Thursday that already was shaping up as bizarre, up popped a familiar name: John Swallow.
But why not? The hearing involved Robert W. Montgomery, who in April 2012 held a fundraiser for Swallow's campaign to become attorney general that was co-hosted by then-Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
In search warrant affidavits issued during an investigation that led to a combined 23 criminal charges against Swallow and Shurtleff, a Swallow staffer was quoted as saying Montgomery had contributed to the campaign, though he doesn't show up on any donor reports.
Still, the U.S. attorney's office for Utah has recused itself from the Swallow/Shurtleff case for months, leading to the presumption that the prosecution of Montgomery, his two brothers and a fourth man for allegedly beating up a government informant was unrelated to the Swallow/Shurtleff cases.
But at the hearing, Montgomery's attorney, Cara Tangaro, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells that one of the chief investigators on the Swallow case had handed Montgomery a card, apparently at his first court appearance earlier this week.
Tangaro said she wondered what then was going on since "the U.S. attorney's office is recused with anything involving Swallow."
Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office for Utah, said she couldn't discuss internal deliberations about a case.
Montgomery, in addressing the judge, gave his side of what had occurred in the fight, saying the man had attacked him. "I'm not a troublemaker," he said, adding that he had completed his parole on a previous weapons charge and was licensed and bonded at his credit repair company.
He then told Wells, "I got involved with Swallow because I wanted to change the world."
At that point, Tangaro told him not to say anything else, and Wells concurred.
The unnamed man who was allegedly assaulted was an employee who had just been fired or quit in May and had returned to the offices of Montgomery's business, Emmediate Credit Solutions, and was angry because his final check had not cleared.
The man, who attorneys said is a drug user, came back and started a fight with Montgomery that soon involved the three others, Tangaro said. It was toward the end of the melee, which ended up in the parking lot of the Salt Lake City business, that the man told them he had been informing on them to the FBI.
Montgomery, his brothers JD and Michael, and Jeremy R. Ertmann, all of whom work at the company, are charged with tampering with a witness, victim or informant by assaulting him to prevent or delay his testimony.
Federal officials declined to say what the object of the investigation was.
But, according to court records, the alleged informant himself has a lengthy criminal history, including appearances before Wells.
William Kendall, an assistant U.S. attorney, started out the hearing by saying the government no longer was seeking to detain the suspects in jail until their cases conclude.
That is an about-face from an initial appearance Tuesday, when Kendall asked that they be detained, prompting questions from Wells.
After reciting each of the four defendants' criminal histories assaults, weapons charges, drug offenses, failures to appear in court and more Wells pressed Kendall on why the government was not seeking to have them jailed.
Kendall said that after reviewing the case, prosecutors believe they could be managed through restrictions on their activities and supervision by federal officials.
Wells also joined defense attorneys in expressing skepticism about the government's case.
Normally, she said, the defendants' criminal histories would prompt her to order them held.
"However," Wells said, "the government's evidence does not seem so strong."