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Judge bars Swallow from bringing up Shurtleff dismissal in upcoming trial

Al Hartmann, Pool, File

Judge bars Swallow from bringing up Shurtleff dismissal in upcoming trial

By Dennis Romboy | Posted - Jan. 13, 2017 at 8:59 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Attorney John Swallow won't be able to bring up the fact that the Department of Justice declined to file public corruption charges against him in his upcoming criminal trial.

Third District Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills also ruled Thursday that Swallow can't mention that state prosecutors dropped all charges against his predecessor and one-time co-defendant, ex-Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

"All those points are irrelevant for this trial," assistant Salt Lake County district attorney Chou Chou Collins told the judge, who agreed. Collins said raising those issues invites speculation and would confuse a jury.

Defense attorney Scott Williams said it would be "extremely difficult" to dance around the fact that prosecutors have listed Shurtleff as a co-conspirator in the racketeering charge against Swallow.

"It doesn't mislead a jury. It informs the jury," Williams said.

Swallow faces 12 felonies and one misdemeanor, including bribery, accepting gifts and obstruction of justice. The former Republican attorney general has pleaded not guilty.

Hruby-Mills has scheduled a four-week trial to start Feb. 7. Swallow's attorneys told the judge they believe it could go as long as six weeks.

The DOJ Public Integrity Section declined to prosecute Shurtleff and Swallow without explanation in 2013 after conducting its own investigation in allegations of wrongdoing. Several local FBI agents stayed on the case, working with state and county investigators.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings cited DOJ's refusal to provide its investigative reports among the reasons he dropped the state case against Shurtleff.


Meantime, an attorney for Kirk Torgensen, one of the state's key witnesses, successfully petitioned the judge to unseal affidavits explaining why the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office had him arrested earlier this week.

Cortney Nelson, a district attorney's investigator, wrote that Torgensen initially declined to sign a subpoena calling him to testify next month because he would be out of the country starting Feb. 8. He said he couldn't alter his travel schedule unless "you want to pay me all the money I'm going to lose."

Nelson said Torgensen told him he would be willing to provide his testimony by other means before the trial, according to the affidavit.


Agents arrested Torgensen early Tuesday at the home of friend. Torgensen, who now lives in Florida, was in Utah for his mother's funeral. He spent most of the day in jail before Hruby-Mills released him and ordered him to be available to testify Feb. 8-10.

Torgensen had planned a nonrefundable, six-week trip to Guatemala with his son.

Brett Tolman, Torgensen's lawyer, called the state's arrest of its own witness "outrageous" and said prosecutors overstepped their authority. He said he intends to seek attorney fees from the state.

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Dennis Romboy


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