Salt Lake County DA, FBI seek dismissal of ex-AG Mark Shurtleff's civil rights lawsuit


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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and the FBI asked a federal judge Monday to toss out Mark Shurtleff's $60 million civil rights lawsuit.

Gill, FBI agents Michelle Pickens and Jon Isakson, and public corruption task force officer Scott Nesbitt say in separate court filings that they are immune from being sued for doing their jobs. They also contend the four-year statute of limitations bars Shurtleff's civil rights claims.

Shurtleff, a former three-term Utah attorney general, along with his wife and two children, filed a lawsuit against the district attorney and the FBI agents in June, alleging they falsely charged and maliciously prosecuted him for public corruption in 2014.

Throughout late 2013 and early 2014, investigators executed fraudulent and perjured search warrants to illegally seize Shurtleff's personal property, texts, phone records and emails, according to Shurtleff's lawsuit.

Agents wearing body armor and wielding assault rifles and other automatic and semi-automatic weapons used excessive force when they raided his Sandy home on June 3, 2014, knowing Shurtleff was not there, his lawsuit says.

The FBI argues that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Utah in its jurisdiction, has yet to find a single instance where deploying a SWAT-like team to execute a search warrant was an excessive use of force under the Fourth Amendment regardless of the nature of the crime being investigated.

Gill's motion for dismissal says Shurtleff's lawsuit describes at length his disagreement with the investigative and prosecution decisions that led to his July 2014 arrest and criminal charges against him.

Shurtleff is so focused on expressing "personal outrage" the he failed to realize most of his claims are barred by the statute of limitations and fall "squarely within the scope" of Gill's prosecutorial functions, according to Gill's court filing.

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Gill eventually turned the prosecution of Shurtleff over to Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.

Rawlings dropped the charges against Shurtleff in July 2016, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made it more difficult to prosecute bribery, inability to obtain key evidence from a federal investigation and concerns about whether the former attorney general could get a fair trial in the high-profile case.

Shurtleff's co-defendant in the original criminal case, former Attorney General John Swallow, was acquitted after a jury trial last year. Both have pending lawsuits seeking reimbursement for more than $1 million in legal fees.

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.

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