[UPDATE: Jason Powers and Kirk Torgenson are on the witness list against Swallow and Shurtleff, and apparently will not be charged. We regret the error from our original story]
Local prosecutors are on the verge of issuing multi-count criminal indictments against former Utah Republican AGs John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff, a source has told UtahPolicy.
Swallow, who resigned his post last December, and Shurtleff, who served 12 years as Utah’s top cop before retiring at the end of 2012, will be charged by Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill, a Democrat, and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, a Republican, after more than a year of intense investigations.
Both will face at least a dozen counts, a source tells UtahPolicy. A decision will be made this week as to the timing of the charges.
Also, a top AG deputy to both Swallow and Shurtleff, Kirk Torgenson, will likely be charged as well.
And Swallow’s top 2012 campaign consultant, Jason Powers, could also see half a dozen charges against him, the source says, unless he agrees to testify against his former clients.
Charges against Swallow and Shurtleff are not unexpected, although both men have steadfastly maintained their innocence.
Just last week current Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes – who has put Torgenson on administrative leave – released his $140,000 independent internal examination of Swallow’s and Shurtleff’s dealings with a convicted former associate of the pair, Marc Jensen.
The latest report, which Shurtleff has called a one-sided affair primarily based on a convicted liar’s jailhouse testimony, comes after a $4 million investigation of Swallow conducted by a special Utah House committee.
The head of that committee, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said that its work was shortened because Swallow resigned in November, effective in early December.
If Swallow had not resigned, Dunnigan said there was enough evidence against him to bring impeachment proceedings to the whole House.
Swallow was also investigated by an outside legal firm hired by the Utah Elections Office. That investigation found that Swallow violated at least five campaign finance laws.
And if Swallow had not resigned, the outside attorneys may well have gone to civil court to have the 2012 attorney general’s election voided – and Swallow would have been out of office.
Shurtleff’s and Swallow’s alleged misconduct is long and complicated – detailed in media reports over the last 14 months, mainly by The Salt Lake Tribune.
Federal Justice Department officials conducted what now appears to be a rather shallow investigation last summer and fall, declining last October to bring any charges against either man.
However, FBI local officers publicly admit they have been helping Gill and Rawlings with their investigations of Swallow, Shurtleff, et al.
As the House’s investigation showed, Swallow was involved in a number of suspected dealings with men who either had been, or were being, investigated by the AG’s office.
In addition, Swallow “lost” or “inadvertently erased” electronic emails, calendar-dated meetings and other data in a clear effort to avoid letting incriminating material fall into the House committee’s and investigator’s hands, the House report said.
In short, in Swallow’s case his ham-handed attempts at destroying possible evidence could be worse than any previous actions.
The House’s investigation said Swallow had basically put a “For Sale” sign up on the AG’s office, and made it clear to several wealthy men – being investigated or already convicted on fraud charges – that to get favorable treatment by the attorney general they needed to contribute to Swallow’s 2012 campaign fund.
Swallow and Powers secretly raised more than $425,000 from Utah payday lenders and used the money to run anonymous negative campaigns against Reyes – Swallow’s then-GOP opponent – and a former state House member who ran bills aimed at curtailing payday lenders huge interest rates.
Shurtleff, among other things, was publicly accused of dropping a long-term investigation of some questionable mortgage operations by a local firm because the investigation – and possible charges – could have harmed Swallow’s run for the Attorney General’s Office.
Swallow and Shurtleff had been friends and political allies for some time.
Swallow was a main fundraiser for a Shurtleff PAC when Shurtleff was considering a run for the U.S. Senate in 2010 against then-Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.
Shurtleff ultimately didn’t get in the race, and Bennett was ousted from office by 2010 GOP state delegates.
In 2009 Shurtleff hired Swallow as his chief deputy, and made him his heir apparent.
Shurtleff was Swallow’s main campaign donor, while much of the money Shurtleff provided his protégé came from donations Swallow gathered for Shurtleff’s PAC years earlier.
Swallow’s and Shurtleff’s public reputations have been shredded in the media, but while Swallow has become a recluse, Shurtleff still speaks out, defending himself and appearing on a local radio talk show giving his opinions on the issues of the day.
Both men have maintained their innocence all along, although Swallow refused to testify before the House committee and Shurtleff more recently refused to talk to the two outside attorneys who issued their report to Reyes this past week.