Embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow is facing another criminal probe, this one from two county attorneys who have been collaborating for months with federal investigators.
Salt Lake County’s Sim Gill and Davis County’s Troy Rawlings are examining whether Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, broke any state laws.
Gill said Wednesday that his office received information from attorneys for convicted swindler Marc Sessions Jenson about alleged impropriety in the attorney general’s office.
"We’ve been engaged in a parallel criminal analysis," Gill said, "to determine if any state laws have been violated by issues relating to the Utah attorney general’s office."
Gill did not specifically name Swallow or Shurtleff and would not say if they were the focal point. But Jenson, who is serving 10 years at the Utah State Prison for securities violations, has made a series of allegations against the state’s current and former top law enforcement officer.
Jenson told The Salt Lake Tribune last week that Swallow and Shurtleff "extorted" him, taking luxurious vacations to his villa in Newport Beach, Calif., on Jenson’s dime. Those trips came while Jenson was free as a result of a plea deal with the attorney general’s office.
Jenson also said Swallow, who was then a private attorney and fundraiser for Shurtleff, offered to help him develop a luxury ski and golf resort in Beaver County once Swallow joined the attorney general’s office in exchange for a $1.5 million stake in the development.
Additionally, the inmate accused Shurtleff of asking Jenson to buy $250,000 worth of Shurtleff’s books about the 19th-century slave Dred Scott; Shurtleff then would get a cut of the sale.
Shurtleff denied any wrongdoing, saying he offered no such book deal and called Jenson a liar.
Swallow, in a statement, noted that he was a private attorney and not working for the attorney general until months after the Southern California trips.
Jenson said he has spent seven hours being interviewed by the FBI in a pair of meetings.
Paul Murphy, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office under Shurtleff and Swallow, said nobody in the office had heard of any investigation by Gill or Rawlings.
The federal probe is now being spearheaded by the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Justice Department, based in Washington, D.C., after the U.S. attorney for Utah recused the office due to potential conflicts.
In addition to the federal investigation, Swallow will face a probe from a special counsel appointed by the lieutenant governor’s office to see whether he concealed information about his financial holdings on his candidate financial-disclosure forms. He also is the subject of two complaints to the Utah State Bar — one from the former head of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection and one from the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah.
Rawlings said he and Gill are working in conjunction with the federal investigation. "We have a coexisting and cooperating investigation," Rawlings said.
The two prosecutors are collaborating because, Rawlings said, there are issues stemming from the probe that fall into his jurisdiction. Gill said it also avoids the perception of any partisanship.
Gill is a Democrat. Rawlings, like Shurtleff and Swallow, is a Republican.
"One of the reasons Troy and I are doing this and we’re doing it together," Gill said, "is we understand the seriousness of the issue and also, from my perspective and I think Troy shares the same, that this needs to be a bipartisan analysis."
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