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Swallow attorneys lose bid to get bribery, other charges dropped

Swallow attorneys lose bid to get bribery, other charges dropped

(Trent Nelson, Pool photo, file)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow appears headed for a trial on public corruption charges.

A 3rd District judge has rejected his motions to dismiss six felony counts against him, including bribery, racketeering and accepting a gift. The trial is scheduled to start Feb. 7.

Swallow's lawyer, Scott Williams, argued that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision rendered Utah's bribery law unconstitutional.

In June, the high court unanimously overturned the corruption convictions of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, ruling that federal prosecutors relied on a "boundless" definition of the kinds of acts that could lead politicians to face criminal charges.

Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills rejected the argument, saying Swallow did not argue that the state law is vague as applied to the conduct alleged in his case, nor did he show that the statute is invalid.

"Legislative enactments are presumed to be constitutional," the judge wrote in a ruling Wednesday, adding that Swallow bears the burden of proving the law is unconstitutional.

"It would prohibit the attorney general, an officer or employee of the state of Utah from soliciting and accepting money with the understanding that the purpose is to influence the official's opinion or decision," Hruby-Mills wrote.

Williams also argued that the charges should be dismissed because investigators lost or destroyed an August 2013 recorded interview with imprisoned St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson, a key witness in the case.

He contends the interview — the first of several with Johnson — contains statements that could help Swallow's defense. Williams also claims an investigative report about the interview contains misrepresentations and omissions.

Hruby-Mills concluded that those assertions don't show that the interview would be helpful to Swallow.

"While it may be useful to contrast all interviews of a particular witness for impeachment purposes, the unavailability of such a tactic does not itself demonstrate that there is a reasonable probability that the recording would be exculpatory," she wrote.

Swallow faces a total of 14 felony and misdemeanor charges in the ongoing case. He has pleaded not guilty.

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Dennis Romboy

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