SALT LAKE CITY — An attorney for Mark Shurtleff said a man who saw himself as Shurtleff's “fixer” had no special access to the former Utah attorney general and was told to stop making untrue claims about his connection.
“His access was no more than any other citizen,” attorney Max Wheeler said Friday.
Timothy William Lawson, 49, has been described as a longtime friend of Shurtleff and John Swallow, who recently stepped down as attorney general amid investigations into his activities. Prosecutors allege Lawson used that friendship to influence others using intimidation and aggressive tactics, mostly behind the scenes.
But Wheeler said Lawson was advised “multiple times” to stop making the claims, and said Shurtleff had no control over anybody who made a claim regarding purported influence.
Lawson engaged in multiple instances of retaliating against witnesses, witness tampering, obstructing justice, bribery, falsifying tax information to hide income and failing to pay taxes, according to charges filed Thursday in 3rd District Court.
Court documents stated Lawson and Swallow maintained a friendship since 2009, and from that time through September, they exchanged 680 calls or text messages.
Swallow attorney Rod Snow disagreed Thursday with the characterization that Lawson and Swallow had a long association, and said Swallow had tried to “steer clear” of Lawson.
Lawson was charged specifically with pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony; two counts of tax violations, second- and third-degree felonies; retaliation against a witness, a third-degree felony; and two second-degree felony counts of obstruction of justice.
Salt Lake City-based lawyer and legal analyst Clayton Simms said he believes prosecutors may try to file charges against Shurtleff and Swallow.
“You charge their lower associate and in a tattle-tale system, you trade that little fish in for the bigger fish,” Simms said. “I think it’s a technique to move up the chain to ultimately go after Mark Shurtleff and Swallow.”
Simms said prosecutors could continue their investigation for potentially several years with a long statute of limitations for felonies.
“Is Lawson going to be convicted? Is he going to work with authorities? We don’t know what the next step is,” Simms said. “He has a high bail — $250,000. He’s under a lot of pressure, and again that pressure can mean he’ll talk about what else he knows.”
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Thursday prosecutors were not currently “looking at anybody else.” He also said, though, that they would address other issues if necessary when the investigation is complete.
Lawson was moved from the Utah County Jail to the Salt Lake County Jail on Friday. He was arrested Thursday at his home in Provo. His warrant included a $250,000 bail.
Contributing: Pat Reavy