Shurtleff’s ex-chief deputy says he warned him about ‘unethical’ behavior

Posted at 11:01 AM, Feb 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-10 21:41:01-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A key witness for the prosecution in the trial of ex-Utah Attorney General John Swallow has wrapped up three days of testimony, facing more cross-examination about his accusations of payments, trips and other perks he says he was forced to give Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff.

"I paid for those items on those receipts, including the stay at Pelican Hill," Marc Jenson testified of an anniversary trip Swallow and his wife, Suzanne, took to the posh resort.

"Do you recall paying for the airfare?" Swallow's defense attorney, Scott Williams, asked.

"I didn't pay the airfare," Jenson replied.

"Do you recall the groceries they brought?"

"I wasn't aware of that."

Williams was critical of whether Swallow or his wife really ate $100 in hot dogs and brats then bolted for a massage in less than 10 minutes.

Williams pointed out to the jury that Jenson met with the FBI, the Justice Department, and even wrote a letter to current Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes asking for an investigation into a deal involving the Utah Transit Authority -- but none of them pursued his claims.

On further questioning from prosecutors, Jenson said he never saw former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid at Pelican Hill, but said he had heard Reid was. He also said he saw Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes arrive, but never saw him again after that. (Hughes has repeatedly denied being there and said he has evidence to prove it.)

Jenson is a key witness for the state, basically accusing Shurtleff and Swallow of a "shake down" as he faced investigation by the Utah Attorney General's Office in a securities fraud case. He claimed he made payments to Shurtleff through Lawson as part of his restitution and even hired Swallow prior to his becoming attorney general, but ultimately he was thrown in prison for not paying restitution in his case.

Asked by deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney why he didn't report the extortion, Jenson replied: "Who do you report the attorney general to?"

Criminal charges were ultimately dropped against Shurtleff. Swallow is currently on trial on 13 charges ranging from soliciting a bribe and making a false statement to pattern of unlawful activity. His trial is expected to last a month, but testimony has dragged on over the past two days.

Also on Friday, Shurtleff's ex-chief deputy testified he raised concerns about his boss becoming personally involved in Jenson's case.

"It was unusual for an AG to get involved in a case as he did on this one," Kirk Torgensen testified.

Kirk Torgensen testifies on the fourth day of John Swallow's public corruption trial at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017.

Pool photo: Kirk Torgensen testifies on the fourth day of John Swallow's public corruption trial at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017.

The jury was shown emails from Torgensen raising his concerns, and he said he was vocal in his objections -- especially as he learned of the trip to Pelican Hill.

"I am still baffled why the attorney general of Utah would take such a trip," Torgensen told the jury on Friday.

While he was a witness for the prosecution, Torgensen testified that he was not so worried about what Swallow was doing -- because he wasn't in the Utah Attorney General's Office at the time. It was testimony that may have bolstered the defense's case.

"I always felt that him being a private individual, even a private lawyer he had whatever right to be there," Torgensen said. "The issue at Pelican Hill was really a public ethics issue and it really focused on the fact that Mark Shurtleff was a public official. That's what my concern was."

Torgensen said in his interviews with investigators about the case, it was "99 percent Shurtleff and one percent Swallow."