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Lawmakers review tactics used during search of Shurtleff's home

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SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday about how a warrant was served on former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's home, but not Shurtleff's complaints that law enforcement used "Dirty Harry" tactics.

Shurtleff told reporters after the hearing that he did not intend to address the Legislature's Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee, which took no public testimony.

The former three-term attorney general sat in the audience taking notes, accompanied by his 17-year-old daughter, who was in the bathroom when authorities entered his home on June 2 while he was out of town.

"They pointed a gun at my daughter. You can see her. Does she look like a threat? They violated the law, that's what they did," Shurtleff said outside the hearing.

He said he would deal with the issue in court.

But Shurtleff, who was in Washington, D.C., when the warrant was issued, said he was not talking about filing a suit over the warrant.

"I didn't say that. It will be in either criminal or civil court, we'll get the answer out," he said. "Of course, I'm angry about what it did to my family and the abuses they suffered."

The committee was told by Utah Highway Patrol officials that the "knock and announce" warrant was served by FBI agents, while the search of Shurtleff's house was conducted by a state investigative team.

UHP Col. Daniel Fuhr declined to discuss the FBI's actions.

"Our agency did the investigation after the home was secured," Fuhr said. "I'm not going to speculate on what occurred on that raid. … That's not to say the (FBI) did anything wrong."

No one from the FBI addressed the committee. The FBI and the Utah Department of Public Safety are involved in an investigation by the Salt Lake and Davis county attorneys into Shurtleff and another former attorney general, John Swallow, who resigned last year.

Warrants were also served that same day on Swallow and Renae Cowley, a former Swallow campaign staffer who now works as a Salt Lake lobbyist.

The committee's Senate chairman, Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said he added the issue to the interim agenda after hearing Shurtleff condemn the tactics used in executing the warrant in media interviews.

Weiler said his primary goal was to assure the public that people's rights were not being abused by law enforcement.

He explained later to reporters that because of the "egregious allegations" made by Shurtleff, the public needed to know whether the subpoena was properly issued and served pursuant to department policy.

"The answers we got today was 'yes' on both accounts," Weiler said.

He said he is also convinced that state law enforcement was not abusing members of Shurtleff's family "inappropriately," and he questioned the former attorney general's claims that the department misled the public about what happened.

"Mr. Shurtleff was 2,000 miles away when this happened and yet felt confident in telling everyone exactly play-by-play what happened as if he was there. It wasn't lost on me that he was in Washington, D.C., when this all took place," Weiler said.

Shurtleff told KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show" the day after the warrant was served that his daughter was ordered her out of the bathroom with her hands in the air.

Four agents wearing body armor pointed guns at her, including one who had a laser sight trained on her chest, Shurtleff said.

"These John Wayne wannabes, freakin' Clint Eastwood 'Dirty Harry' tactics were absolutely unacceptable and unneeded," he told the radio host.

Shurtleff said he was not notified about the hearing. He said Weiler "obviously set this up as a softball thing to let them claim that they did nothing wrong."

His daughter, who wrapped her arms around her father as he spoke to the press, said, "I can just say I was scared and I was terrified, and it shouldn't happen to anybody. It's not OK."

Also Wednesday, the Legislature's Government Operations Interim Committee began looking at changes to the law recommended by the special House committee that concluded Swallow, Shurtleff's successor, hung a "for sale" sign on his office door.

Those changes include allowing similar investigations to use the grand jury process. The chairman of the special investigative committee into Swallow's activities, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said that could have reduced the $4 million price tag.

Dunnigan said the investigation was slowed down and made more costly when subpoenas issued were challenged in court. Witnesses, he said, may have been more willing to cooperate knowing grand jury proceedings are secret.

Other changes recommended were dealing with both sizable and anonymous campaign contributions and further restricting outside employment by members of the attorney general's office.

No action was taken by that committee, but its House chairman, Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, said after the meeting he expects further discussion if bills are drafted to address the recommendations.


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Lisa Riley Roche


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