SALT LAKE CITY — Utah businessman, Jeremy Johnson, still maintained his innocence in court on Friday when he was assigned a new defense attorney. He also continued to defend Attorney General, John Swallow.
Ron Yengich is the attorney now assigned to handle his case. Johnson didn't say anything about the switch of attorneys after a stern warning from a Federal Magistrate to stop talking to the media. A formal hearing on a gag order is scheduled for the future.
Outside the court, a small number of supporters were gathered holding signs that said "Free Johnson," "Freedom of speech," and "No more government corruption."
Possible charges against Johnson will be revealed sometime next week, despite Johnson declaring his innocence throughout the ordeal. In his last interview before his gag order took effect, he told media that he thinks Swallow is innocent as well.
During his federal case, Johnson has remained strangely calm about the uncertainty of his situation. He said it's a situation he tried to avoid several years ago by contacting Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Robert Bennett, but there was no response.
"I just got the feeling that it was like, 'I'm busy running the country,' or whatever senators do," Johnson said.
Johnson said his friend Swallow, who was then-deputy Attorney General, got involved. Johnson said he gave Swallow a total of $250,000 in an effort to stop an FTC investigation. Swallow said the money was to pay for a lobbying effort on Johnson's behalf.
"I just sort of chalked it up to a 'politics as usual' kind of conversation," Johnson said.
Johnson said he doesn't think Swallow did anything wrong. He said that he has no hard feelings about Swallow, the man he still considers a good friend, who is responding to the case by calling Johnson a liar.
"What else could he say at this point," Johnson said. "I would expect that's what he's going to say and that's an easy thing to say against someone like me in this situation," Johnson said.
He insists that he and Swallow are victims of "overzealous Federal prosecutors" and the media.
"It's nothing like what's being portrayed, where John called me and we devised a scheme to bribe a senator," Johnson said. "And, it was nothing like that. That's what's being portrayed, and maybe it's semantics, but lobbying, well placed money, influence peddling. It's all the same thing."