SALT LAKE CITY -- The man at the center of the biggest political scandal in Utah history has been sentenced to federal prison in connection with a white collar fraud scheme.
Jeremy Johnson was sentenced Friday to 11 years in federal prison. He said nothing as the judge imposed sentence.
"Honestly, your self-importance, it seems to me... is at the root of this scheme," U.S. District Court Judge David Nuffer told him.
Outside of court, Johnson's defense attorney, Mary Corporon, said her client was "unhappy" with the sentence. She said an appeal was likely. She tried to argue against the judge taking into account previous misdeeds Johnson was accused of, and highlighted volumes of letters written to the court on his behalf.
"He's the kindest, most generous man. we adore him, we love him, we have two little girls that will miss him terribly but we will never give up the fight," Johnson's wife, Charla, told reporters outside of court.
His co-defendant, Ryan Riddle, was sentenced to five years in federal prison. Riddle declined to comment to FOX 13 outside of court, but his lawyer, Steven Killpack, said an appeal was pending.
Johnson was convicted by a jury back in March on eight counts of making a false statement to a bank, but acquitted of 78 other counts including conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering. Riddle was convicted of six counts of making a false statement. Scott Leavitt was acquitted on all counts.
Federal prosecutors charged Johnson, Riddle and Leavitt with an 86-count indictment, accusing the St. George businessman of running shell companies to handle "charge backs" for credit card payments from his company, iWorks. Federal prosecutors accused the men of doing it because banks had flagged them on a list of merchants not to do business with.
Jeremy Johnson is a key witness in the case against former Utah Attorneys General Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow. In 2013, he claimed then-Utah Attorney General John Swallow was going to bribe then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, on his behalf. The accusations led to the criminal cases against Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, who are accused of soliciting gifts and donations from people facing investigation by the Utah Attorney General's Office.
Both Shurtleff and Swallow have denied wrongdoing. The scandal led to Swallow's resignation after about a year in office.
The case against Shurtleff was dismissed late Thursday after Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said he was unable to secure enough evidence from the U.S. Department of Justice as part of his case, there were concerns about Shurtleff's right to a speedy trial, and Rawlings did not have confidence he could secure a conviction. Rawlings noted that Shurtleff had agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in ongoing investigations. Johnson, the prosecutor has said, was also cooperative with their investigation.
Swallow is also seeking to have his case dismissed. His attorney, Scott Williams, was in court on Friday for Johnson and Riddle's sentencing. He declined comment to FOX 13 outside of court.
U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber praised the sentence outside of court, saying it sent a message to others about white collar crime. He insisted the prosecution of Johnson was not political.
"This case has nothing to do with John Swallow or Mark Shurtleff. This case stands on its own, as an elaborate scheme by an ingenious criminal to profit from and feed his greed," Huber said.
Outside of court, Jason Harper, a juror who voted to convict Johnson and Riddle, said he believed the sentence was harsh but added: "I don't make the laws."
"I believe we came to the right verdict with what we had. They got let off on everything else," he told FOX 13.