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Jeremy Johnson wants charges dropped, alleges government 'deceit'

Jeremy Johnson wants charges dropped, alleges government 'deceit'

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson wants the criminal charges against him dropped because federal agents shared confidential information with prosecutors that he provided during the investigation of two former Utah attorneys general.

Johnson is a key witness in the criminal cases against Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow. As part of the state's ongoing investigation of the former attorneys general, Utah authorities granted Johnson immunity regarding "significant and beneficial information, evidence and statements."

State authorities and federal investigators assigned to the Shurtleff and Swallow case promised Johnson and his then attorney Ron Yengich that "highly sensitive" material he gave them was protected, and would not be turned over to the U.S. Attorney's Office, according to court filing late Friday.

"The Johnson, Swallow and Shurtleff prosecutions are arguably three of the most high profile cases in the state of Utah," Johnson's attorney Rebecca Skordas wrote. "The public perception of the integrity of our justice system is put into serious question if government agents are permitted to invade the relationship between a defendant and his attorney through deceit."

Yengich recently stepped aside as Johnson's attorney and was replaced by Skordas and her husband Greg Skordas.

Federal prosecutors filed an 86-count fraud indictment against Johnson related to his once thriving Internet marketing business, iWorks. At the same time, Johnson made allegations against Swallow and Shurtleff that spawned federal and state investigations.

The local Utah U.S. Attorney's Office was recused from the Shurtleff/Swallow investigation due to a conflict involving former Johnson prosecutor Brent Ward. The Department of Justice Public Integrity Section took over but declined to file charges against them.

But FBI agents in Utah continued to work with state investigators, and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings ultimately filed public corruption charges against Swallow and Shurtleff, based partly on information from Johnson.

Before the indictment against Johnson, prosecutors obtained case files in the Shurtleff/Swallow investigation from the FBI, which included confidential information between Johnson and his attorney, according the court filing.

"This intrusion occurred in spite of a state grant of immunity, and in spite of repeated assurances from federal agents that the information Mr. Johnson provided them could not and would not be disclosed to the prosecution team," Skordas wrote.

Court documents also show federal prosecutors used a sealed search warrant in 2013 to grab Johnson's email, which included 4,000 exchanges between Johnson and his attorneys. Those records would be protected under attorney-client privilege. Prosecutors say they separated the emails from evidence they intend to use against Johnson in his trial next year, according to court documents.

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