ST. GEORGE – A judge decided Thursday to allow prosecutors to use hearsay statements as evidence during the pending trial of former Utah Attorney General John Swallow. The statements are meant to convince a jury that Swallow was involved in a criminal conspiracy.
The decision by 3rd District Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills comes in the wake of a two-day evidentiary hearing that saw one of the prosecution’s key witnesses drop the names of officials on the state and federal level.
Testimony from Marc Sessions Jenson and others was used by prosecutors to show that former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow, Mark Shurtleff, Swallow’s predecessor, and the late Tim Lawson, were co-conspirators based on conversations and interactions related to the trio.
“Shurtleff was at the apex of the conspiracy, the guy who called all the shots,” Salt Lake County Deputy District Attorney Fred Burmester said in this week’s hearing, as reported by The Salt Lake Tribune. “Lawson was the muscle, who intimidated and threatened and Swallow was the moneyman.”
The judge ruled Thursday that the prosecutors had met the burden of proof needed to allow such evidence into trial.
Swallow’s trial is set to start Feb. 7.
Jenson, a key witness for the prosecution, is a convicted felon, having served time in prison for securities fraud in Utah from 2011 to 2015.
During the hearing in which Jenson testified for nearly seven hours, he said Greg Hughes, current speaker of the house in the Utah Legislature, had accompanied Shurtleff, Swallow and Lawaon on one of their visits to Jenson at his villa at Pelican Hill in California in May 2009.
Hughes was never introduced to Jenson, nor was he ever told his name, Jenson said during his testimony Tuesday. Because of this, Jenson said Hughes was the “mystery man” he had referred to when speaking to investigators over the years.
“It wasn’t until years later that I saw a picture of Greg Hughes and he was that man,” said Jenson, according to a report by Fox 13 News.
Jenson said Hughes, along with then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, supposedly attended a “secret” meeting in June 2009 involving Utah Transit Authority officials and developers regarding a UTA ForeRunner station in Draper, the Desert News reports.
At the time Hughes was a legislator and served as the UTA board chairman.
Hughes, along with other UTA board members, Jenson claims, received $100,000 cash payments that were connected to $35 million kickbacks to the train station developers Mark Robbins and others, UTA and Zions Bank. Jenson spoke to investigators and provided financial documents backing his claims while still in prison in 2013, he said.
Jenson was not in the meeting involving UTA and Reid, he said, yet he had heard the recently retired senator had been involved.
A proposed FrontRunner station set for Draper triggered a probe by the Utah Attorney General’s Office, Utah Legislature and FBI over allegations of conflict of interest and self-dealing, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. No charges have been filed in relation to the probe.
Following the secret meeting, jenson said, Robbins and Lawson told Jenson that they had Shurtleff and Swallow – then slated to be the next Utah attorney general – protecting them at the state level and Reid doing the same at the federal level.
Shurtleff, who appeared at the hearing Tuesday after seeing Twitter posts about it, was subsequently asked to leave by the judge when the prosecution objected to his presence as he is a potential defense witness in the upcoming trial.
Outside the courtroom, Shurtleff accused Jenson of committing perjury, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
“Get this,” Shurtleff told the Tribune. “Marc Jenson is a liar.”
Though Shurtleff is counted as a co-conspirator, public corruption charges against him were dropped by the Davis County Attorney’s Office last year. Jenson has accused Shurtleff and Swallow of shaking him down for money.
During the second day of the Legislature’s general session, Hughes learned about Jenson dropping his name. He has also called Jenson a liar.
“I have never in my life been to that resort, ever. If that man got on that stand, swore under oath that I was at the resort, he has perjured himself, he has broken the law,” Hughes said, according to Fox 13 News.
Hughes said he is willing to testify and is already working with staff to put together records of where he was at the time Jenson claims he was with Shurtleff in California and at the so-called meeting.
Greg Hartley, Hughes’ chief of staff, tweeted to Deseret News Tuesday that Hughes was at a Golden Gloves boxing competition in May 2009 during the time Jenson said he was with Shurtleff and that he was in Draper presenting a flag to an Eagle Scout in June 2009.
Hughes has said he is willing to testify, and Scott Williams, Swallow’s attorney, said he welcomes the possibility, according to the Deseret News.
Concerning the accusations against Hughes, Burmester told the judge Wednesday morning that Jenson’s testimony the day prior was the first time he’s heard the story.
As for Reid, the Deseret News reported that he told the newspaper last week that he doesn’t know anything about Swallow’s case.
“I testified truthfully, under oath, to things that I witnessed myself and I stand by what I said today,” Jenson said, according to Fox 13 News.
Overall, Williams argued during the two-day hearing that there was no conspiracy between Swallow, Shurtleff and Lawson, nor is there any proof of it.
Swallow faces multiple felony and misdemeanor charges related to public corruption such as a pattern of unlawful conduct, accepting a prohibited gift, tampering with evidence, soliciting and receiving bribes and obstructing justice. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.
Swallow pleaded not guilty to the charges in July 2015.
Swallow resigned as attorney general in December 2013 amid the circling corruption accusations and the resultant investigations.
In the months following his resignation, the Utah House released findings of its own investigation into Swallow’s conduct, which said 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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