SALT LAKE CITY – Following his arrest and pretrial release from jail, Tuesday, former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff held a press conference in which he railed against Salt Lake District County Attorney Sim Gill. He called his arrest unnecessary and the charges against him politically motivated.
“The charges of criminal wrongdoing are completely false,” Shurtleff said.
Shurtleff faces 10 felony counts related to a pattern of unlawful activity, receiving or soliciting bribes, tampering with a witness, tampering with evidence, accepting gifts while being prohibited to do so, and accepting employment that would impair his judgment.
The charges stem from an mutli-agency investigation involving the Salt Lake District County and Davis County Attorney’s offices, the Utah Department of Public Safety and FBI into multiple allegations of corruption against Shurtleff and his successor, former Attorney General John Swallow.
After two years of being tried in the media, he said, he welcomes the chance to take the fight to court.
He has confidence in the justice system, Shurtleff said, having worked in it for much of his professional career, yet he did not have confidence in Gill leading a fair-minded investigation.
Gill is running for a second term as the district county attorney, and with it being an election year, bringing charges against Shurtleff and Swallow serves his political aspirations, Shurtleff said.
He also called the issue of his arrest a “political sideshow” arranged by Gill and others involved in the investigation against him.
Shurtleff also said elements of the investigations were leaked to the media by Gill in order to add to the frenzy.
He has fully-cooperated with investigators since 2007 when issues initially arose, he said. When Jeremy Johnson originally came to him with allegations against Swallow, who was his chief deputy attorney general at the time, Shurtleff said he took those allegations to the FBI and cooperated with their investigation and questioning accordingly.
As previously noted by Shurtleff, the Department of Justice ultimately dropped its investigation against Swallow and himself.
“The Department of Justice’s agenda must not be political,” Shurtleff said, and then went after county and state-based agencies once more.
He again accused Gill’s motives behind the investigation and resulting charges to be politically driven. He also accused the FBI field office and Utah Department of Public Safety of the same due to the roles they played in the investigation.
Utah DPS and the FBI could have interviewed dozens of people who could have helped prove his innocence, Shurtleff said, yet supposedly neither agency did.
During his time as the attorney general, Shurtlefff said he never intentionally violated the code of ethics, or committed a crime, as the investigation contends.
“I am excited to go forward,” he said, adding he believes Gill’s investigation can’t prove many elements of the charges against him “beyond the shadow of a doubt” in court.
Swallow has also maintained his innocence throughout the many investigations into alleged ethical misconduct and corruption. Last year Swallow resigned as attorney general, citing the financial and emotional strain the investigations were putting on his family.
Public officials have continued to respond in the wake of Shurtleff and Swallow’s arrest Tuesday morning. Attorney General Sean Reyes, who was appointed by the governor following Swallow’s resignation, issued the following statement:
This is a difficult day in the long and distinguished history of the office of the Utah Attorney General. Sadly, two men who served as leaders of our office have been charged with crimes alleged to have taken place during their administrations. I do not prejudge them and fully recognize that every defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence. Neither do I defend or condone any of the alleged conduct. I have faith in our judicial system and confidence that, ultimately, justice will be served. I encourage the public to have patience and confidence in the process as well.
While our office will continue to cooperate with agencies investigating and prosecuting these cases, my chief concern today is to recognize the hundreds of outstanding public servants who work as attorneys, staff, and investigators in the Utah Attorney General’s Office. Each is diligently working to do the people’s business with excellence and great professionalism. They could be earning much higher salaries in the private sector but choose to serve the people of Utah, often without the positive acknowledgment they deserve. The House Special Investigators took great care to recognize and draw distinction between the professionals in the Utah Attorney General’s Office and any allegations or conclusions regarding former office-holders.
Since my appointment in late December, my new executive team and many respected leaders throughout our office have worked unceasingly to create a culture change and restore public trust. Today, the Utah Attorney General’s Office has new and renewed leadership teams throughout the Criminal, Civil and Appellate Departments. Divisions and sections have been refocused and even reorganized based on exhaustive research and careful assessment. The professionals on our team will continue to roll up our sleeves, stay hard at work, and defend the laws of our state while protecting Utah citizens and businesses against violent crime and white collar fraud.
Despite strong and differing opinions, and valid disagreement regarding important cases we are handling on behalf of the State, one area where all Utahns can agree is the need for the highest level of integrity in public service. We have and will continue to implement policies, protocols, and practices that demand such an elevated standard for the Attorney General’s Office.
- Swallow, Shurtleff arrested on multiple felony counts related to alleged corruption
- On the EDge: Shurtleff finds the shoe on the other foot
- Shurtleff claims ‘horrific police abuse,’ DPS says proper procedure followed
- House committee releases Swallow report; names of Sens. Lee, Reid appear in county attorneys’ investigation
- House probe into former Attorney General John Swallow releases findings
- Swallow resigns, says Utah House drove him from office
- Attorney general’s office, House committee make deal on records; new subpoenas issued
- Swallow denies deleting documents, fires back at committee
- Utah State Bar drops ethical misconduct complaint agaisnt Swallow
- Department of Justice declines to prosecute Swallow
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