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Obstruction of justice? Swallow fabricated documents, investigators say

Investigators say ex-A.G. fabricated documents and destroyed data.

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Perhaps nowhere were the inconsistencies in Swallow’s stories more glaring than in his explanation of data lost or deleted from, as Reich put it, every electronic device that Swallow used since he joined the attorney general’s office in December 2009.

The attorney general office’s computer technician said in a sworn statement that Swallow asked him in July 2012, weeks after the Krispy Kreme meeting, to wipe out all of the data on his state-issued desktop and laptop computers — claiming that the action was needed to protect private information related to his then-role as a Mormon bishop.

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At a glance

Attempt at a cover-up?

Special counsel Steve Reich and House investigators alleged the following improper actions, among others, taken by former Attorney General John Swallow:

Fabricated evidence

» Created postdated invoices in 2012 for work Swallow supposedly did on a Nevada cement project in 2010 and 2011 for Check City owner Richard Rawle.

» Listed questionable entries, after the fact, in a time-management journal showing when and how many hours he worked for Rawle.

» Helped prepare a declaration Rawle signed three days before his death that Swallow later said Rawle’s team had created.

Destroyed evidence

» Deleted emails from a personal account.

» Directed an attorney general’s office computer tech to erase hard drives on his work computers and replace a hard drive on a home computer.

» Deleted electronic calendar items.

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An external hard drive, backing up the data, was left on a plane and never recovered. He lost an iPad in Washington, D.C., and replaced a cellphone during summer 2012.

He also appears to have intentionally deleted all of his emails from 2010, Reich said. Swallow publicly argued that the emails were lost when the office migrated to a new email system. It wasn’t true, House investigators concluded, and the messages were purged months earlier.

Swallow knew the messages were gone months before the state changed email systems, but never told investigators until he was confronted with evidence disproving his story.

Swallow’s attorney asked for and received a copy of the computer tech’s sworn statement the night before he announced his resignation, saying it could help with a decision that was being made.

Additionally, Reich said, computer experts spent considerable time and money trying to recover data from a hard drive in Swallow’s home computer that had been replaced by the office’s technology staff a few months earlier — a fact that neither Swallow nor Snow shared.

"This committee spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars proving the 2010 email was not lost during the migration when quite obviously Mr. Swallow knew all along what the truth was, yet he never said anything about it to this committee until he was absolutely forced to," Reich said. "That’s an example of what I mean when I say this committee’s investigation has been obstructed."

Snow said it’s wrong to blame Swallow for the cost of the probe.

"We do not believe that any delays cost the taxpayers any extra money. That is a nice ploy: Blame the cost on the person you are investigating who has already resigned."

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During the Krispy Kreme meeting, Johnson advised Swallow to "go get a friggin’ Wal-Mart phone," a prepaid device that would be difficult for law enforcement to monitor.

Swallow did just that.

According to testimony from campaign staffers, he directed an aide to buy a so-called "burner" phone days later.

"John needed me to make a purchase that could not come back to the campaign at all," staffer Seth Crossley wrote to the campaign’s treasurer. "I paid cash."

Reich said others confirmed the purchase referred to was for Swallow’s phone — an action that Reich said speaks to Swallow’s state of mind after the meeting with Johnson and a "keen awareness" of the digital footprints he might leave for investigators.

Reich alleged Swallow obstructed the House inquiry and engaged in activity that other investigators — including a criminal probe being conducted by top prosecutors in Salt Lake and Davis counties — may want to consider.

"Let’s assume John Swallow is the most technologically unlucky human being on the face of the Earth," Reich said. "Why didn’t he just come forward at the beginning and tell this committee what happened? Why is it we had to drag every piece out? Why is it the story changed and morphed every time almost that we confronted him with our findings?

"The behavior that we’ve seen is not consistent with someone who believes they have an innocent explanation for what happened," he added. "It is consistent with someone who has hunkered down and made a judgment that the only way through is to wait and see what this committee came up with and then come up with an explanation that takes that into account."

Legislators were incredulous at the findings.

"There have… been times when the intentions of this committee and the resolution of our colleagues has been called into question," said Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City. "I’m just very offended that our integrity has been questioned in light of everything we have [heard]."

Reich previewed some of what the committee will hear Friday, expressing investigators’ concern about a "daisy chain" of nonprofit entities established by Swallow’s campaign consultant, designed to hide Swallow’s political contributors — some of whom would be politically unpopular.

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