Two top officials with the Utah Department of Corrections on Wednesday denied an inmate's allegations of retaliation for speaking publicly about his interactions with Utah Attorney General John Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff.
During the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee hearing, Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, asked Director Rollin Cook about media reports on assertions by attorneys for Marc Sessions Jenson that their client "had been inappropriately or vindictively placed in a cell with a repeated gang member" after he spoke to FBI agents and reporters about his refusal to go along with a "shakedown" orchestrated by Swallow and Shurtleff. That refusal led the attorney general's office to file new felony charges against him, Jenson claims.
In a court document filed Saturday and reported on by The Salt Lake Tribune and other media Jenson's attorneys allege their client was "unexpectedly" moved on June 4 to the prison's Oquirrh 1 unit "where serious violent offenders are housed." That "precarious" housing move came after Jenson spoke to reporters, they said. Jenson's attorneys said Jenson had to be "extracted by authorities in Davis County" and placed in protective custody at that jail to "ensure his life and safety."
Cook told the committee "that wasn't the case."
He said Jenson was moved to the Davis County Jail at the request of the Davis County authorities to facilitate easier access to him by his attorneys and others.
In fact, the document filed Saturday by Jenson's attorneys say they had been seeking his transfer to Davis County for that purpose since he was moved in April from the Summit County Jail to the Utah State Prison.
Jenson, like all inmates, was initially placed in the prison's reception and orientation unit when he arrived at the Point of the Mountain, Cook said. In the court filing, Jenson's attorneys say their client was told at the end of May he would be moved to a unit where nonviolent offenders are housed.
Deputy Director Mike Haddon told the committee Wednesday there were reports that Jenson had been placed in maximum security with a violent gang member who had just learned his parole date had been pushed back and was "likely very angry."
Oquirrh 1 is not a maximum security unit so "that wasn't accurate," Haddon said. In addition, Jenson's new cellmate "had just recently received a parole date that was very soon out and did not want to do anything to mess up his interaction," Haddon said, adding that "there is nothing we are seeing there."
Oquirrh 1 is a medium-security general population unit. Jenson was moved there because space opened up, department spokesman Steve Gehrke said after the meeting. Jenson was there for a day and then was transferred to the Davis County Jail, he said. The inmate with whom he briefly shared a cell has been discipline free for four years and recently received a parole date of early 2015.
In 2008, Jenson entered a plea in abeyance to allegations he sold unregistered securities. But then in 2011 he was given a 10-year sentence after failing to pay millions in restitution to investors. Jenson also faces new felony charges related to a failed development at Mount Holly ski resort in Beaver County.