Judge tosses Shurtleff’s lawsuit against FBI, state prosecutors

Judge tosses Shurtleff’s lawsuit against FBI, state prosecutors

(Scott G Winterton, KSL, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — After giving former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff a final chance this summer to make his case against federal, state and county law enforcement officials, a federal judge Friday dismissed his $80 million civil rights lawsuit.

Though he found Shurtleff failed to show that investigators and prosecutors lied to obtain search warrants that led to criminal charges or that they are immune from being sued, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups said in July that he had enough concerns about allegations in the complaint that he would allow time to submit more detailed arguments.

“Plaintiffs did not take advantage of this last shot,” the judge wrote in dismissing the case with prejudice, meaning the suit cannot be refiled. Shurtleff said he is contemplating an appeal.

Shurtleff, 62, said his reaction to the decision was “obviously great disappointment.”

“I went through every emotion from probably sharing a tear or two to rage, frankly. It blows me away that these officers and prosecutors can get away with what they do simply because the law allows this qualified immunity. It’s just flat-out wrong,” Shurtleff said.

Darcy Goddard, chief policy adviser in the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, said the county is pleased that Shurtleff had every opportunity to make his case, “but that the court ultimately recognized Mr. Shurtleff’s demand for $80 million in taxpayer dollars was legally without merit and should be dismissed.”

A former three-term Republican attorney general, Shurtleff, along with his now ex-wife and two children, sued Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, FBI agents and state investigators in 2018, claiming they falsely charged and maliciously prosecuted him for public corruption in 2014.

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

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

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, an 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 said his daughter still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder “because of the way she was treated by those officers, and it’s all forgiven because they had a search warrant. It’s just wrong. It needs to be stopped.”

No judge would have issued the warrant knowing the facts, he said.

Waddoups wanted Shurtleff to submit a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of where prosecutors and investigators made false statements and how that would have affected a state judge’s decision to grant the search warrant.

But, the judge wrote, Shurtleff “did not follow the court’s instruction.”

While Shurtleff went through each paragraph, he ignored the court’s other directives and didn’t address the impact that excluding the allegedly untrue information, or including the allegedly omitted information, would have had on the state judge’s finding of probable cause for a warrant, Waddoups wrote.

Waddoups said Shurtleff failed to show officers caused harm to anyone through using excessive force or that they were told to use excessive force. Instead, the claim rested on a theory that the defendants’ use of a SWAT team in and of itself amounts to excessive force, he said.

Shurtleff also didn’t prove that he was the victim of a malicious prosecution by showing investigators obtained the warrant based on false statements or reckless disregard for the truth.

“Because Mr. Shurtleff was arrested pursuant to a warrant, as a matter of law, there was probable cause to support his arrest, and as such, plaintiffs cannot establish the third element of their claim for malicious prosecution unless they first attack the information on which the warrant was based,” Waddoups wrote.

Shurtleff said the $80 million he sought “wasn’t an outrageous amount” considering his earning potential as private lawyer, loss of reputation and his daughter’s PTSD, and to “really punish law enforcement if they violated your rights.”

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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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