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Judge grants state's motion to dismiss corruption charges against Mark Shurtleff

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SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff no longer faces public corruption charges.

Third District Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills dismissed the case Wednesday, capping one chapter in a high-profile drama that eroded Utahns' trust in the state's top law enforcement office. Shurtleff's successor and onetime co-defendant John Swallow still faces criminal charges.

As two years of court maneuvering among defense lawyers, federal agencies and a frustrated prosecutor now come to a close, Shurtleff, 58, looks to repair his tarnished reputation.

"I have so many facts I have to share that are truly alarming," he said in a text message in anticipation of the case being dropped.

The charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could possibly be refiled in the future.

The former three-term Republican attorney general faced five felonies — three counts of accepting gifts, and one each of bribery to dismiss a criminal proceeding and obstruction of justice — and two misdemeanors accusing him of obstructing justice and official misconduct. A trial was scheduled for late October. He faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Shurtleff, contacted in Denver on Wednesday following the ruling, said, "I'm going to have a call in the morning with my lawyers to discuss potential responses given the impact of a dismissal that may deny me the statutory right to attorney fees."

Shurtleff also said he and his family were "overjoyed that justice has (finally) been served" and posted on his Facebook page ‪#‎Hallelujah‬! ‪#‎Justice‬! ‪#‎gratitude‬.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings cited several reasons for dropping the charges, including a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding bribery, the inability to obtain key evidence from a federal investigation and concerns over whether Shurtleff could get a fair trial.

Rawlings said he tried hard but likely would never obtain key evidence he believed the Department of Justice and the FBI were withholding from their investigation of Shurtleff and Swallow. The DOJ's Public Integrity Section declined to file charges either man, but a state criminal case against Swallow is ongoing.

The DOJ said it provided Rawlings hundreds of thousands of electronic images and believes it has shared "all relevant documents and information" related to the prosecution of Shurtleff "within the parameters of the law."

Shurtleff said the information the FBI provided were irrelevant images in a deliberately mixed-up, unsearchable format. He texted some of them to the Deseret News, including a photos of a three pies, a field, computer-generated pictures and music CD from the movie "Slumdog Millionaire."

"They put in so much of this crap that it takes over an hour to run a search for a single name," Shurtleff said in the text. "Plus, by saying they produced terabytes of evidence, it makes it sound like they have a substantial case — all very misleading."

Shurtleff's attorney, Richard Van Wagoner, had filed motions to dismiss the case in June and earlier this month argued numerous delays in the case violated his client's due process rights and that the prosecution couldn't meet its obligations to share all of its evidence with the defense.

Prosecutors responded with their own motion to dismiss the case July 18, saying they were ready to "stand down" from the highly publicized case.

Van Wagoner issued a statement Wednesday saying his client feels vindicated.

"(Shurtleff) is delighted with the dismissal. He is disappointed that the court did not reach the decision based upon his motions, including his claims of constitutional violations," Van Wagoner said. "He believes the state clearly saw the writing on the wall and at the very last minute filed its own motion to dismiss as a means to avoid having the court address the merits of Mark's substantial motions. The state's own motion expressly adopted much of the rationale set forth in Mark's motion to dismiss."

Rawlings said in a statement that Hruby-Mills' decision Wednesday to grant his motion was "appropriate."

"Due to the overlap with other cases, the state of Utah's language in the motion to dismiss, as well as the judge's appropriate granting of it, will have to speak for itself at this time," Rawlings said. "When the state of Utah can speak publicly to answer questions and respond to Mr. Shurtleff and/or others, it will."

Swallow remains charged under some of the same allegations. At the time the state filed its motion, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said the case against Swallow would continue.

Swallow's defense attorney, Scott Williams, said Wednesday that the charges could be dropped under the same criteria that Shurtleff's case was dismissed.

"I do not see how the cases of Mr. Swallow and Mr. Shurtleff differ materially in reference to the motion made by Mr. Rawlings," Williams told the Deseret News.

Williams has recently submitted court documents claiming prosecutors violated Swallow's attorney-client privilege by improperly allowing themselves access his emails. If those allegations don't convince the 3rd District Court to drop the case, "then we’ll address the inequality of the applications of the prosecution" of Shurtleff versus that of Swallow, Williams said.

Charges against Shurtleff had alleged, among other accusations, that he made two trips to the Pelican Hill Resort near Newport Beach, California, paid for by now-convicted businessman Jeremy Johnson.

Johnson, who also contributed to Shurtleff's election campaign, had earlier been prosecuted by the attorney general's office for securities fraud.

Shurtleff's charges also accused him of accepting lavish gifts from Johnson, including the use of his personal jet and staying at his home.

Johnson was convicted earlier this year of eight counts of making a false statements to a bank in a case largely centered around his online company iWorks. He was also acquitted of 78 fraud charges in the case. Federal prosecutors have argued that Johnson should be sentenced to 22 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for Friday.

Prosecutors initially filed 10 felony charges against Shurtleff and 11 felonies and two misdemeanors against Swallow on July 15, 2014.

The two men were initially charged together after a nearly two-year joint state and federal investigation, but the cases were later split. Rawlings took the Shurtleff case, while Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill took the Swallow case.

Rawlings later dropped or amended half the felony counts against Shurtleff.

Contributing: Dave Cawley, McKenzie Romero

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