Prosecution’s case in the Swallow trial is winding down

Posted at 5:55 PM, Feb 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-22 23:25:47-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The prosecution's case in the corruption trial of former Utah Attorney General John Swallow is winding down.

Prosecutors on Wednesday called a couple who hosted a fundraiser for Swallow that raised eyebrows with the cost of the event. But Tim and Jennifer Bell insisted they did nothing to influence Swallow.

"The government’s theory is that you and your wife attempted to bribe John Swallow, are you aware of that?" Swallow's defense lawyer, Cara Tangaro, asked Tim Bell on cross examination.

"That’s the feeling I’m getting," he replied.

"And I’m assuming there’s absolutely no truth to that, is that correct?"

"None. Whatsoever," he emphatically replied.

Jennifer Bell lashed out against another high-profile state witness, Marc Jenson, calling him a "sociopath" to the jury. The couple had wound up in an investment deal with Jenson that failed.

Jenson has accused former Utah Attorneys General Mark Shurtleff and Swallow of a shakedown. He testified at the beginning of the trial that he had to make payments to Shurtleff through an intermediary, and that he had to give Swallow a job. Both men took trips to the Pelican Hill resort in California on his dime, he testified.

Swallow is facing 13 charges in what prosecutors have alleged is a "pay to play" scheme in the Utah Attorney General's Office. But throughout their testimony, many prosecution witnesses have focused on Shurtleff -- who is not on trial. Criminal charges were dismissed against him.

The state was once again unable to call one of its biggest witnesses, St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson, who had claimed Swallow used his houseboat and one of his houses. He has refused to testify, insisting that he has no guarantee of immunity from federal prosecutors for anything he testifies in the Swallow trial.

The prosecution's last witness is expected to be FBI Special Agent Jon Isakson. Late Wednesday, the defense pounced on a statement he made to the jury on the witness stand -- revealing why the U.S. Department of Justice declined to prosecute the case. Isakson testified that they were worried about the statute of limitations expiring for Tim Lawson, an associate of Shurtleff's.

"Towards the end of summer 2013, we asked the Department of Justice to decline prosecution so we could continue working with the district attorney’s office," he said.

Outside the presence of the jury, defense attorneys objected to it even being brought up -- noting that the judge had forbidden any discussion of why the Justice Department declined to pursue charges.

Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills did not immediately rule on what to do about it, sending lawyers home at the end of the day and telling them to think of a potential remedy.

The prosecution is expected to rest its case on Thursday. The defense will then present its case, and is expected to call Shurtleff, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings (who dropped the case against Shurtleff) and House Speaker Greg Hughes.