SALT LAKE CITY -- The corruption case against former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff took a turn on Monday, as prosecutors dropped a bribery charge and others he was facing.
“It shows that Troy Rawlings, that he cared enough to review the evidence and conclude that there was no bribery, there was no quid pro quo for employment,” said Shurtleff’s attorney, Rick Van Wagoner.
Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings filed an amendment to the case Monday, listing new charges. Shurtleff now faces five felonies and two misdemeanors. They include accepting prohibited gifts, bribery and obstruction of justice.
Previously, Shurtleff was facing nine felonies.
The filing was made just before Shurtleff was scheduled for a preliminary hearing. During such a proceeding, prosecutors present their evidence and a judge determines if the case moves forward. However, Shurtleff submitted a conditional waiver, which essentially allows him to skip the hearing for now.
“I’m feeling good. I have great counsel,” said Shurtleff, before his attorney asked him to not comment further.
Shurtleff was accused of taking trips in 2009 to the luxurious Pelican Hill resort in southern California. Prosecutors stated the trips were all on the dime of Marc Sessions Jenson, a man the attorney general’s office had previously prosecuted. The charges state he prepared a lenient plea deal for Jenson that a judge ultimately rejected.
However, Van Wagoner argued that Utah’s political system allows for a lot of questionable activity, which many current politicians are using to their advantage.
“If you look at the statute, what is permissible in terms of campaign contributions versus gifts versus bribery,” said Van Wagoner. “I mean, come on, we have a corrupt system. The system is corrupt.”
Van Wagoner changed the focus from Shurtleff to other big names in Utah, such as current Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. Last month, Reyes took heat for a campaign donation from a contact lens seller that many felt benefited from a state law.
“Whether his campaign says no, it doesn’t influence me, ask 1-800 Contacts about that,” said Van Wagoner.
He also pointed the finger at U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, who was criticized for short selling his home in a deal some felt came with inappropriate benefits.
“It’s a cautionary tale. If elected officials believe that campaign contributions don’t influence them, if they tell the public that, number one they’re lying,” said Van Wagoner. “If they tell themselves that, they’re lying to themselves.”
Shurtleff is scheduled to be arraigned on the new charges at the end of the month.