SALT LAKE CITY — Mark Shurtleff’s attorney, Max Wheeler, spoke with Doug Wright on the Doug Wright Show Tuesday morning after his client was charged and arrested for his alleged involvement with unlawful activity, bribery and other related charges.
Wright: Mr. Wheeler, thank you for joining us here at KSL. And, walk us through what unfolded this morning with your client.
Wheeler: Well, we learned of the arrest basically through the media because of the way it was handled. We of course knew — or had strong indications — that charges would be filed, we didn’t know when. But we had offered to sit down with Mr. Gill weeks ago and have Mr. Shurtleff answer his questions concerning matters he had concerns about and that offer was rejected.
I then sent Mr. Gill a letter requesting that when charges would be filed — and we could tell from his attitude that they would be sooner or later — that when they were filed, that they would give us the courtesy of issuing a summons to allow Mr. Shurtleff to appear in court without being arrested. Obviously, that request went unheeded.
SALT LAKE CITY — Mark Shurtleff appears ready to dig in his heels for an impassioned defense.
A little more than two hours after being released from jail, the former Utah attorney general held a news conference to vehemently deny the charges against him, while delivering strong words against Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.
"I admit that I am not perfect and never professed to be. I have made mistakes and errors in judgment. But I have never intentionally committed any breaches of professional ethics, misused or abused my office of public trust, and certainly never violated the criminal laws of this state or our nation," he said. "The charges of criminal wrongdoing are completely false. I look forward to the opportunity to clear my name."
Shurtleff also made several allegations against Gill, saying he believes the charges against him are politically motivated.
"(Gill) obviously delayed (Tuesday's) charges long enough — two years — in order to ensure that I cannot establish my innocence and obtain justice until after this November's election," he said. "Then again, he probably doesn't care as long as his political aspirations are bettered."
Gill responded by saying that even if he had waited until after the election to file charges, he still would have been accused of having political motivations. He reiterated that "no one single person drove this investigation" and pointed to the contributions made by the FBI, Utah Department of Public Safety, a House legislative committee and the lieutenant governor's office.
Shurtleff said Gill promised at one point that he would have five county attorneys review the case before a decision was made on whether to file.
Gill conceded Tuesday that while that was the original intention, it turned out to be logistically impossible. If that had happened, the case wouldn't have been completed until next year, he said. But Gill pointed to all the other agencies and departments of both political parties that did look at the case.
Shurtleff further noted the many search warrants that have been unsealed in this case contain many "falsehoods and omissions." At one point, Shurtleff claimed he was actually helping with the FBI's investigation by being part of a sting operation to catch Marc Sessions Jenson's head of security in a bribery attempt.
Shurtleff said he was later surprised and dismayed "that the very taping organized and coached by (the FBI) was evidence of my committing the crime of soliciting a bribe."
The former attorney general was also upset with what he called "political sideshow antics" of being arrested in front of his family at home, rather than negotiating a surrender, which he said he would have done. He called being booked into jail "sobering" but thanked the arresting officers and jail staff for being respectful.
Shurtleff said he believes the investigation should never have gotten this far and should have been dropped after the Department of Justice declined to prosecute. The DOJ's resources, he said, far exceed those of any local county prosecutor, and its agenda wasn't political.
I was very disappointed that Mr. Gill would execute an arrest warrant, an arrest of Mr. Shurtleff, in front of his family and neighbors and haul him off to jail rather than allowing him to self-surrender, which is the common procedure — contrary to your prior visitor (Gill) on the show. This is not the normal procedure in a white collar crime case. The normal procedure for that office, in my experience, is even when arrest warrants are issued, that a defendant who is not a flight risk and who is not a threat to society is allowed to self-surrender at the jail.
That avoids all of the problems you’ve just been talking about. Especially where a law enforcement officer is being jailed with people he might have put there or whose friends might have been put there by him. It’s a very bad process that has been followed here, especially when the district attorney’s office has agreed to release these men to pretrial services.
So why arrest them in front of their family and friends, take them off to jail when you are prepared to release them to pretrial services anyway? They could easily have just simply notified us that, “charges have been filed, we want you to send Mark Shurtleff down to the jail to self- surrender,” and he would have been down there this morning.
But instead of that, we’re grandstanding the whole thing and now it’s a media circus with the arrest and the filming of that arrest, obviously at the invitation of the district attorney’s office.
Wright: So I’m taking it in that it was photographed — filmed — as you indicated. Who was there? Was it media?
Wheeler: We don’t know, we just know from Mark Shurtleff’s family that there were cameras there at the time of the arrest.
Wright: Have you had a chance to actually talk with Mark Shurtleff?
Wheeler: No, I have not seen the charging documents, nor have I had a chance to talk to Mark yet.
Wright: You indicated that in conversations with Mark Shurtleff, your client, that there were clear indicators that an arrest could be coming. Including indicators from Mr. Gill himself. What was Mark’s response to that?
Wheeler: Well, obviously, he was very disappointed because he had sat down and had talked to the federal investigators years ago about the very same matters that are the basis of the criminal charges as Mr. Gill explained during the press conference.
Obviously, (Shurtleff) thought he had given his explanations concerning the matters under investigation back that. So obviously, he was disappointed that Mr. Gill thought he knew better than the investigators from the public corruption sections of the justice department. But that’s part of the process. There are two jurisdictions here, the state and the federal, and Mr. Gill can pursue what he thinks he can prove; making an allegation and proving are two different things.
Contributing: Celeste Tholen Rosenlof, Jed Boal