Prosecutors drop another Swallow charge; jury could begin deliberating Wednesday

Prosecutors drop another Swallow charge; jury could begin deliberating Wednesday

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SALT LAKE CITY — Jurors could begin deliberations over the public corruption charges against former Utah Attorney General John Swallow on Wednesday.

And the jury will have four fewer felony charges to consider than when the trial started more than three weeks ago.

Prosecutors dropped another witness tampering charge Tuesday — this one having to do with whether Swallow intentionally deleted emails from his state computer in 2013. The state dropped three felonies last week after a key witness, imprisoned St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson, refused to testify.

Swallow's defense team rested its case in 3rd District Court Tuesday after calling just a few witnesses. Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills scheduled closing arguments for 10 a.m. Wednesday, the 14th day of the scheduled 16-day trial.

Lead defense attorney Scott Williams told reporters outside the courtroom he felt confident at the close of the state's case last week that its evidence was "very, very weak."

"We only put on evidence of our own to clear up some things that we thought the state had intentionally misled the jury on and to put on an expert to demonstrate the truth of our narrative," he said.

Defense attorneys tried to get their last witness Tuesday to leave the jurors with the impression that Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill was politically motivated in filing charges against Swallow after the Department of Justice declined to do so following an FBI investigation.

Prosecutors objected, and Hruby-Mills shut down the line of questioning.

Outside the courtroom, Williams said the fact that "the feds didn't and the state did" should be considered in light of a political motive. He said Gill campaigned on the motto "no one is above the law" in 2014 and he knew what he was going to be doing when he filed the case against Swallow and former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

Gill responded in a text message, saying the two men were the subject of federal, state, county and legislative investigations.

"To suggest that I could control the independent actions of all those agencies is to give me considerably more powers than I possess," he said. "We let the facts and our legal obligations guide us in the decision to file charges and nothing else."

Swallow now faces eight felonies and one misdemeanor, including racketeering, bribery, accepting gifts and tampering with evidence. He had faced 13 charges when the trial began. State prosecutors dropped the criminal case against Shurtleff last summer.

Williams said if the system works the way that it should, he's "entirely confident" the jury will acquit Swallow on all charges.

The defense didn't call any of the big names on its witness list, including Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes. Williams said last week the defense has made much of its case on cross-examination of the state's witnesses.

He said he decided not to call the Draper Republican because the defense has gone after the "obvious lies" Marc Sessions Jenson told during the trial in other ways. Williams also said he doesn't want to burden Hughes in the final days of the 2017 Legislature.

Jenson, the state's star witness, claimed Hughes attended a secret Utah Transit Authority meeting with politicians and developers in his Southern California office in June 2009. He testified the meeting occurred when he paid for Swallow and then-Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to visit the exclusive Pelican Hill resort where he lived.

Hughes, who was a legislator and UTA board chairman then, adamantly denied being there and offered proof of his activities in Utah during that time. Williams said the defense believes investigators have accepted Hughes' public explanation, and "therefore the FBI must believe Mr. Hughes rather than the claims of Marc Jenson."

Testimony on Tuesday centered on a couple of the charges Swallow faces.

Prosecutors accused Swallow of falsifying a government record when he filled out his candidate financial disclosure form when he filed to run for attorney general in 2012. He failed to include P Solutions, an entity an estate planning attorney set up for him under a Swallow family trust.

Imprisoned businessman Jeremy Johnson claims Swallow was part of plan to bribe then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in an attempt to end a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Johnson’s online marketing company, iWorks. Swallow introduced Johnson to Richard M. Rawle as someone who could help lobby the government. Johnson and an associate paid Rawle $250,000.

Rawle paid $23,500 to P Solutions out of that money, which he said was for consulting work Swallow did on a Nevada cement plant project. Swallow later returned the payments and asked Rawle to pay him out of a different account.

Lee McCullough, an estate planning attorney who set up a family trust and limited liability companies for Swallow and his wife, testified that he advised Swallow not to include P Solutions on his candidate financial disclosure in March 2012.

Swallow was listed as the manager but changed it to his wife’s name. McCullough said Swallow couldn’t say that he owned P Solutions when he was no longer the manager or owner. He said it didn’t matter whether the company was active or receiving money.

Had Swallow been the manager, McCullough testified, he would have told him to list the company on its form. He said he accepted Swallow’s word that P Solutions wasn’t active.

Prosecutors argued that the law requires the income to be reported unless it's in a "blind trust."

Gary Marx, president of the public affairs consulting firm Madison Strategies, testified that Utah campaign finance law was unclear on in-kind donations in 2012. He said the law didn’t say whether the host of a fundraiser had to declare the entire cost to put on an event.

Tim and Jennifer Bell hosted a fundraiser for Swallow's 2012 attorney general campaign that cost $28,000 but that Swallow reported on campaign finance disclosures as a $15,000 in-kind donation and then a $1,000 donation at the direction of Swallow campaign workers. He later amended it again to reflect the full amount.

Marx testified that amendments to financial disclosures are legal and common. His analysis showed 2,602 amendments to Utah disclosure forms from 2007 to 2017. He also noted that campaigns typically assign less experienced staffers to fundraising. Marx said his review of Swallow campaign finance records showed them to be “normal.”

On cross-examination, Marx acknowledged that the defense flew him in from Atlanta and paid him as an expert witness.

Prosecutors also allege Swallow lied about when he decided to run for attorney general. Several witnesses testified that Swallow was telling people he was the heir-apparent to Shurtleff in 2009.

Frank Madsen, a longtime Swallow friend and political adviser, said Swallow had a lot of "consternation" about whether to run and how it would impact his family. He said Swallow didn't decide until the summer of 2011. He said he was not aware that Swallow earlier told people he was going to be the next attorney general.

Williams filed several motions regarding some of the charges he wanted Hruby-Mills to rule on before handing the case to the jury. Lawyers argued those Tuesday afternoon but she denied most of them.


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