New lawyer for Johnson, but no gag order yet

Posted at 6:46 PM, Feb 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-02 00:50:00-05

SALT LAKE CITY - Utah businessman Jeremy Johnson was in federal court on Friday after prosecutors called for a gag order against him in a federal fraud case.

Johnson is accused of using his Internet company I Works to defraud customers of millions of dollars.

As part of the case, Johnson implicated Utah Attorney General John Swallow for allegedly helping Johnson try to bribe top federal officials to make Johnson's fraud case disappear. Johnson also claims that he and his family were threatened by federal prosecutors.

Swallow denies those claims, saying he just introduced Johnson to another man who offered to hire lobbyists to try and get the case dropped.

After Johnson granted several one-on-one interviews earlier this week, one with FOX 13, prosecutors called for a gag order that would prohibit him from talking publicly about the case, and a hearing was scheduled for Friday.

At the beginning of Friday's hearing, Johnson's attorney Nathan Crane stepped down, citing issues - including Johnson's granting interviews with local media - between him and Johnson that would impede the defense. Ron Yengich was court-appointed as Johnson's new attorney.

U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen argued that Johnson was increasing his "aggressive campaigning" in the case, particularly with the recent interviews, and asked the judge to order Johnson to keep quiet about the case.

But the judge said a gag order would present serious constitutional questions and he won't decide on it right away. He did advise Johnson and his attorney to halt their media campaign, saying, "Simply because you can doesn't mean you should.".

Yengich agreed, and told the judge he and Johnson won't say anything else publicly about the trial.