Utah AG calls for investigation into bribery solicitation allegations

Posted at 6:28 PM, Jan 14, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-15 01:17:58-05

SALT LAKE CITY - Utah Attorney General John Swallow is asking federal attorneys to investigate allegations that he solicited bribes in a federal fraud case.

Swallow was implicated in the case against Jeremy Johnson, who is facing federal fraud charges with his company I Works. Johnson claims Swallow helped arrange a deal where Johnson would pay up to $600,000 to make his case disappear. That money, according to Johnson, was intended for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Swallow denies any wrongdoing, but is still asking for an investigation to clear his name. He sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah on Monday calling for them to investigate the allegations. The letter read:

"Mr. Barlow,

Last Monday I took an oath to support, obey and defend our state and federal constitutions; an oath I have previously taken and honored. I am deeply disappointed by the recent false allegations levied at me. I call on the U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah to investigate those allegations.

In response to the recent allegations of Mr. Jeremy Johnson, I deny I have ever participated in a scheme to bribe a member of Congress. I expect no special treatment. I do not hold myself or anyone else above the law. The rule of law is what sets our republic apart from other forms of government.

I urge your office to look into these allegations and I pledge my full support and cooperation.

Most Sincerely,
John E. Swallow
Utah Attorney General"

Swallow sat down with FOX 13 Monday, saying he did nothing wrong, but he wants to clear his name.

"If I've done something wrong I want you to look at me. I want you to prosecute me for that. If I haven't I don't need your protection so I feel, my conscience is clear, that's why I called for an open and honest investigation," he said.

Swallow admits that he made mistakes of judgement. He shouldn't have trusted Jeremy Johnson or connected him with a friend who would lobby the federal government.

"I want to make sure everybody knows I didn't intervene with anyone with the federal government. I did not talk to anyone in the federal government on this case," Swallow said.

Swallow claims that he just introduced Johnson with Richard Rawle, the owner of Check City, and the two met separately to make a deal.

In that deal, Johnson paid $250,000, with $50,000 going to Rawle and $100,000 going to certain businesses, including $20,000 to Swallow, who says it was for market research he did outside his work as deputy attorney general.

He says that while he believes the deal was legal and ethical, he made a mistake and he wouldn't do it again.

"I think it's important to realize we live in a free market economy. And what parties agree to contract between themselves to do is really up to them," he said. "I've learned from this experience and in my administration we're going to do things a little differently. We're going make sure that this type of mistake in judgment or whatever you want to call it cannot happen in my administration as attorney general."

The Alliance for a Better Utah says that even if Swallow didn't break the law, they think he should be disbarred from practicing it. Swallow admits to helping Johnson find a lobbyist to fight those federal charges but claims he didn't participate in any illegal acts.

"His conduct as near as we can read, according to the rules of conduct, he has an obligation to represent the interest of his client vigorously. He should not prioritize the interest of one client over another and he should not act adversely to the interest of his client. Well, we're his clients," Maryann Martindale, executive director for Alliance for a Better Utah.

Tim Chambless, a political science professor at the University of Utah, says that if anything, the public should question Swallow's judgement.

"In the middle of January of 2013, just weeks after the national election we have if nothing else a question of ethics with regard to the highest enforcement officer in the state of Utah," Chambless said.

The Utah State Bar can't comment on whether a complaint has been filed, saying it's confidential.