SALT LAKE CITY – Prosecutors in the public corruption case against former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff accused the Department of Justice and the FBI of refusing to produce evidence related to the case. On Monday, they asked the court to order the federal agencies to hand over the evidence.
The state prosecutors aren’t the only party interests in the evidence – Shurtleff’s defense attorney also wants it. Just as one side believes there is evidence that could convict the former attorney general, the other side believes there is evidence that could exonerate him.
“We’re not afraid of what’s out there; we want it, we want the discovery,” Shurtleff’s attorney Richard Van Wagoner said as reported by Fox 13 News. “For whatever reason, the federal government decided to push back.”
The Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Division previously investigated Shurtleff and his successor, John Swallow, yet ultimately shut down the investigation and declined to press any charges in Septemeber 2013.
In July, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings asked the DOJ to turn evidence from that case over to the state. However, the DOJ denied the request, stating it was too broad, and asked Rawlings to produce a more detailed summary of requested items so the federal agency could better evaluate the relevancy of the requested materials to the state’s case.
This didn’t sit well with Rawlings who, during a hearing Monday, asked 3rd District Judge Elizabeth A. Hruby-Mills to use the state’s authority over the case to force the DOJ to hand over the evidence.
In Rawling’s motion, he said the court shouldn’t allow the DOJ-PIN to “assert control” over the case by deciding what evidence is relevant and what isn’t. He also said that some of the materials requested “may possibly relate to the decisions within the DOJ-PIN, or to federal employees” that were made during the Justice Department’s prior investigation.
It is an investigation Rawling’s called “seemingly truncated and narrowly focused … with respect to a very constricted number of persons and events.”
If the Justice Department wants to control the evidence and take over the case, Rawlings added, “… they should step up to the plate and prosecute the matter themselves.”
Following the hearing, Van Wagoner suggested a reason the government may be withholding evidence is because it might implicate other people, Fox 13 reported.
“Without disclosing much, I have reason to believe that’s the case,” Van Wagoner said. “I really can’t say more than that.”
A hearing on the matter was set for Dec. 1. As for Shurtleff, the judge scheduled a two-week trial for his case slated for May 2016.
Shurtleff faces five felony-level charges of accepting prohibited gifts, obstruction of justice, and bribery to dismiss a criminal proceeding, as well as two misdemeanor charges for obstructing justice and official misconduct. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison.
Shurtleff entered a not guilty plea in June.
Shurtleff, who served as the state’s attorney general for three terms, was arrested last year, along with Swallow, in the wake of a two-year investigation. The investigation, a joint-operation between the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office and Davis County Attorney’s Office, alleges both men engaged in various acts of corruption while in office.
Among the allegations made against Shurtleff is that he accepted prohibited gifts from convicted businessman Marc Sessions Jenson and federally-indicted St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson.
Prosecutors point to Shurtleff’s alleged use of Jenson’s vacation home in Venice Beach, California, as well as use of Johnson’s private jet as examples of the prohibited gifts.
Jenson is serving 10 years in prison for communications fraud and money laundering. Johnson currently faces over 80 federal charges of Internet fraud.
- Shurtleff pleads not guilty to corruption charges
- Bribery charges dropped against former Utah attorney general; case moves forward
- Former Attorney General Swallow waives prelim, corruption case moves forward
- Shurtleff, Swallow make first appearances in court
- Swallow, Shurtleff arrested on multiple felony counts related to alleged corruption
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