Criminal charges against former Utah AG Mark Shurtleff dropped

In this file photo, former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, facing public corruption charges, appears in Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills courtroom. Salt Lake City, Utah, Sept. 28, 2015, for a pre-trial hearing. | Courtroom pool photo by Francisco Kjolseth/Salt Lake Tribune, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY –Former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is no longer facing criminal charges after a 3rd District Court judge dismissed the case against him Wednesday.

Davis County Attorney prosecutor Troy Rawlings filed the motion to dismiss July 18, citing various issues with the case. Reasons cited for seeking the dismissal were based on Shurtleff’s cooperation with the state in other investigations, a recent Supreme Court ruling and the inability to provide all evidence asked for by the defense, among other issues.

Shurtleff’s attorneys submitted their own motion June 18 asking the judge to dismiss the charges against Shurtleff “with prejudice,” meaning he could not be charged with the same crimes again in a new case once the current one is dropped.

Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills agreed with prosecutors, dismissing the case, although she did so without prejudice which means prosecutors could refile the case at a later date.

In a statement to FOX13 News, Shurtleff said he was thrilled with the decision.

“I and my family are overjoyed that justice has finally been served and I am anxious to address the public in detail,” he said.

Shurtleff and his successor, John Swallow, faced corruption charges and were accused of accepting gifts and donations from people facing investigation by the Utah Attorney General’s Office. Shurtleff and Swallow denied wrongdoing.

According to the motion written by Rawlings, Shurtleff has cooperated with prosecutors in the past on multiple occasions and has “provided significant and important information” to the state and worked with the federal government, and will continue to do so. He will “even testify” as needed. This cooperation also involved reporting on the suspected crimes of an unnamed United States senator to federal agencies.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling also impacts the case against Shurtleff, Rawlings wrote.

In that ruling the high court vacated the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell. In that case the former governor had been charged with accepting bribes. The Supreme Court ruled that although McDonnell accepted gifts from others it wasn’t an act of public corruption since he didn’t take any “official action” as the governor in exchange for those gifts.

As the ruling significantly narrowed the scope of what an “official act” may be, Rawlings wrote, it will have a negative effect on Utah’s case against Shurtleff moving forward.

There are also matters of insufficient evidence that makes it impossible for the state to proceed with some of the charges, Rawlings added. The media attention Shurtleff’s case has garnered, he said, will harm his ability to have a fair trail.

The prosecution’s inability to provide Shurtleff with a speedy trial or fulfill its “Brady/Giglio” obligations were other reasons the state cited in asking for the case to be dropped.

Under Brady/Giglio, the prosecution is obligated to share all the evidence it has with the defense. The state has been unable to do this due to the lack of cooperation by the U.S. Justice Department in supplying requested materials, Rawlings wrote in the motion.

The State of Utah informed the United States Department of Justice that if material was not produced, dismissal may be the end result,” Rawlings wrote. “The state of Utah tried. Hard. It still did not work.”

The evidence the motion speaks of relates to materials complied by the federal agencies during their own corruption investigation into Shurtleff in 2013. While that investigation resulted in no charges being filed against Shurtleff, the U.S. Justice Department hasn’t been very forthcoming with the evidence its agents gathered, both the state and defense have argued.

As such, Rawilings lays the state’s inability to meet its obligations and provide Shurtleff with a speedy trial at the feet of the federal agency.

Not being able to receive the evidence it wanted is also a focus of a motion Shurtleff’s attorneys filed in late June, asking the judge to dismiss the case.

Shurtleff, who served as Utah’s Attorney General for three terms, was arrested along with his successor, John Swallow, in July 2014.

Both men were charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors related to public corruption. Shurtleff himself faced 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 have faced up to 30 years in prison.

The charges stem from an investigation conducted by state and federal officials that culminated in the 2014 arrest of Shurtleff and Swallow.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who is leading the prosecution against Swallow, told media outlets Monday that the potential dismissal of Shurtleff’s case won’t have any affect on Swallow’s case.

Swallow’s attorneys filed to have his own case dismissed in April.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • .... July 27, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    That’s terrific news. ! He’s innocent of all charges

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