Former Attorney General Swallow waives prelim, corruption case moves forward

ST. GEORGE – Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow waived his right to a preliminary hearing in 3rd District Court Wednesday. The preliminary hearing had been set to start next Monday and potentially run five days.

Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow | Stock image, St. George News
Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow | Stock image, St. George News

Along with his predecessor, three-term Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Swallow was hit with multiple criminal charges related to corruption last year. Both men maintain they are innocent. An arraignment hearing for Swallow is scheduled for July 20, with a preliminary hearing for Shurtleff’s case set for June 15.

During a preliminary hearing, the prosecution presents the court with evidence and witnesses supporting its case in a sort of mini-trial. Any evidence and witnesses used could also be scrutinized by the defense. Ultimately, it is left in the hands of the judge to determine if the state has established enough probable cause in the case to move it forward to trial.

Steve McCaughey, Swallow’s lawyer, told the Deseret News that since the case was likely to go to trial anyway – the burden of proof needed to establish probable cause in such hearings isn’t high – his client decided to forgo the hearing.

“The key thing here is that, with such a low burden of proof required to bind cases over to trial, there was no reason to let the state put their evidence on and give them sort of a preview of everything,” McCaughey told the Deseret News.

As reported by The Salt Lake Tribune, McCaughey also said Swallow’s waiving the preliminary hearing wasn’t due to there being a plea on the table, because there currently is none.

“This is a straight-up waiver,” McCaughey said.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that no plea deal has been extended to Swallow.

The case brought against Swallow is the culmination of a two-year long, joint-investigation between the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office and Davis County Attorney’s Office with the aid of the FBI and other agencies.

Last month, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office issued a list of over 30 potential witnesses to testify during Swallow’s preliminary hearing. On the same day, the district attorney’s office also added a new felony charge of money laundering to the lengthy list of charges Swallow currently faces.

In all, Swallow faces 13 third-degree felonies and one misdemeanor charge related to allegations of patterns of unlawful activity, soliciting or accepting bribes, accepting gifts where prohibited, tampering with evidence and lying to investigators.

If convicted, Swallow could spend up to 30 years in prison.

The charges Swallow faces originally stem from allegations of corruption against the former Utah attorney general by federally-indicted St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson made in early 2013.

Johnson accuses Swallow of using his connections to help to orchestrate an alleged bribe of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, in order to eliminate actions against Johnson by the Federal Trade Commission, among other allegations.

Swallow resigned as Utah Attorney General in December 2013 amid the circling accusations. In the months following his resignation, the Utah House released the findings of its own investigation into Swallow’s conduct, which claims he “hung a veritable ‘for sale’ sign on the office door that invited moneyed interests to seek special treatment and favors.”

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