Swallow pleads not guilty to corruption charges

SALT LAKE CITY – Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow pleaded not guilty to multiple felony corruption charges in 3rd District Court Monday.

Swallow remained silent during the brief court hearing as his plea was entered by attorney Stephen McCaughey on his behalf. Following the plea, Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills scheduled a four-week jury trial for Swallow’s case to start April 5, 2016.

The former state attorney general offered no comment to reporters after the hearing, telling them he has been advised not to speak, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Swallow, 52, faces 11 felony charges and two misdemeanor charges related to alleged money laundering, patterns of unlawful activity, tampering with evidence, lying to investigators, accepting or soliciting bribes, and accepting prohibited gifts.

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

According to KUER, the prosecution is confident charges filed against Swallow will stick.

“We feel very comfortable moving forward with it,” Sim Gill, Salt Lake County District Attorney, told KEUR. “Nothing is written in stone because these are dynamic matters. Circumstances sometimes change. But, we are very comfortable. Our team is preparing and just like Mr. Swallow, we look forward to our day in court.”

Swallow waived his right to a preliminary hearing last month. During that hearing, the state would have to convince the judge that there is enough probable cause to move the case forward to trial. As the burden of proof needed to establish probable cause isn’t particularly high, Swallow 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.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office had filed a list of 33 potential witnesses to testify at the hearing, among whom were federally-indicted St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson and convicted businessman Marc Sessions Jenson.

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. It ultimately resulted in the arrest of Swallow and his predecessor, three-term Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, last year.

It is alleged that both men engaged in various acts of corruption while in office. Swallow and Shurtleff maintain they are innocent of the charges.

Shurtleff, 57, pleaded not guilty to various felony and misdemeanor corruption charges in court June 29. He also faces the possibility of 30 years in prison if convicted. His next appearance in court is scheduled for Aug. 10.

The charges Swallow faces originally stem from allegations of corruption made against him by Jeremy Johnson in early 2013.

Johnson accuses Swallow of using his connections to help 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 corruption accusations and their resultant investigations.

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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