Criminal charges filed against Swallow, Shurtleff associate

Posted at 3:33 PM, Dec 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-12 23:50:01-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The first charges have been leveled in a joint criminal investigation into allegations of wrongdoing in the Utah Attorney General's Office.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings charged Tim Lawson, an associate of former Utah attorneys general Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow who described himself as Shurtleff's "Porter Rockwell" and a "fixer."

"Because Shurtleff and I are best of friends, people would come to me and ask if I would speak on their behalf to Mark," Lawson told FOX 13's Max Roth in an interview in May. "There were times I would go to Mark and say, 'I have this client that's concerned with this, that or the other. Would you be willing to listen?'"

Lawson was charged with racketeering-related charge pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony; two counts of tax violations, a second-degree felony; witness intimidation, a third-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a third-degree felony. He was arrested Thursday by DPS and the FBI and booked into the Utah County Jail.

Charging documents accuse Lawson of taking more than $120,000 from convicted fraudster Marc Sessions Jenson, to provide access to the attorney general's office. In 2008, the court documents said, Lawson sent Shurtleff an email outlining the terms of a plea deal in the Jenson case without the knowledge of the assigned prosecutor.

Shurtleff arranged a plea-in-abeyance for Jenson, so lenient that the assigned attorney expressed concern and was relieved of the case, charging documents state. The deal went through.

In 2009, Lawson was paid $120,000 by Jenson "to gain access to then Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, and to influence, on Jenson's behalf, potential witnesses and/or victims in Jenson's criminal cases and/or anticipated litigation," prosecutors wrote in the charging documents.

Lawson is also accused of taking money from Jenson to arrange trips for Shurtleff and Swallow to visit a posh California resort. Jenson, who is incarcerated at the Utah State Prison, has accused the former attorneys general of a "shakedown."

Lawson told FOX 13 in May that it was on "my dime, my expense."

"As far as I understood, they took me for my word, because Jenson. They knew I worked for Jenson and they knew I went down to Pelican Hills often," he said.

In court documents, Chief Deputy Utah Attorney General Kirk Torgensen warned Swallow about Lawson, writing in an email: "Lawson is the guy that is going to bring the house of cards down."

Torgensen contacted Davis County prosecutors expressing concerns about Lawson intimidating witnesses. Lawson contacted him. During another phone call, prosecutors claim, Lawson lied to Torgensen about it. Lawson was also questioned by the FBI in August. Prosecutors said he lied to federal agents as well.

Court documents claim Lawson maintained a relationship with Swallow, exchanging 680 phone calls and text messages between April 2009 and September 2013.

"Those text messages discussed various matters including the holidays, the 2012 election, the FBI investigation and possible wire-tapping of Defendant Lawson's phone," prosecutors wrote.

The FBI on Thursday served a search warrant at Lawson's Provo home. FOX 13 watched as agents removed numerous bags and boxes from the home. They refused to say what it was they were taking, or why.

Lawson remained in the Utah County Jail on Thursday in lieu of $250,000 bail. It was not immediately known if he had retained an attorney.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill told FOX 13’s Ben Winslow his office would not rule out charges against others.

"We have an ongoing investigation into allegations of criminal wrongdoing pertaining to the attorney general's office, including Mr. Shurtleff and Mr. Swallow. Those are ongoing investigations. They are not complete," Gill said.

Shurtleff declined to comment when contacted by FOX 13, referring calls to his attorney, who did not immediately return messages to return calls.

"I don't read anything in the probable cause statements that suggest John Swallow did anything illegal," Swallow's attorney, Rod Snow, told FOX 13's Max Roth on Wednesday night.

Snow said he believed the investigation was focusing on others, but he did not believe Lawson's arrest was a sign that charges could be coming against Swallow.

"I think there are probably a half a dozen people they've been looking at that are persons of interest," he said.

Read the charging documents here.