SALT LAKE CITY -- Are they "best of friends," or a "name-dropper" exploiting a famous acquaintance?
The answer to that question may hold the key to former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's fate because a man who considers himself a confidante sits in jail on felony charges of racketeering, tax evasion, and obstruction of justice.
Timothy Lawson was arrested Thursday afternoon in a bust in Utah County. It was an arrest and search organized by the chief prosecutors of Salt Lake and Davis Counties and carried out by the Federal Bureau of investigation.
The next day, Lawson remained in jail, apparently unwilling or unable to pay a $25,000.00 bond to secure bail for $250,000.00.
In the recent past, Lawson boasted about his friendship with former three term attorney general Mark Shurtleff, proudly owning the moniker "political fixer."
Here's how he described the relationship in a May interview with Fox 13:
"Because Shurtleff and I are best of friends, there are times people would come and ask me if I would speak to Mark. And there are times I would go to Mark and say I have this client concerned about this that or the other. Would you be willing to listen?"
The day after Lawson's arrest, Shurtleff's attorney, Max Wheeler, painted a far different picture of the relationship:
"If you investigate further I think you could find Mr. Lawson is somewhat of a name dropper and would make similar claims of having purported influence with the governor's office and other government and political leaders."
A spokesman for Governor Gary Herbert said his boss knows Lawson but hasn't seen him or spoken to him in years. He said Lawson had arranged no meetings between clients and the governor.
Shurtleff and his successor, John Swallow, have not disputed accounts of lavish trips they took at Lawson's invitation when Lawson was employed by convicted fraud Marc Jenson.
Those trips, to the five star Pelican Hill Resort in Southern California, play prominently in charging documents submitted by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.
Talking with Fox 13 Wheeler said he doesn't anticipate charges against Shurtleff, though he said he can't get inside the minds of the prosecutors:
Max Roth: "Have you had a chance to talk with prosecutors at all?"
Max Wheeler: "A little bit."
Max Roth: "Would you be surprised if charges were coming your way?"
Max Wheeler: "As we sit here today, yes I would."