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Lawyer: No charges for Utah AG in bribery probe

Thursday - 9/12/2013, 6:20pm  ET

Utah Attorney General John Swallow looks on during an interview at the Utah State Capitol Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Salt Lake City. Swallow says the federal investigation into claims he arranged a bribery scheme has been closed and no charges are pending. Swallow says his attorney was told Thursday morning that the Department of Justice’s public integrity section had concluded the probe and the agency is not seeking criminal charges. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

BRADY McCOMBS
Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A federal bribery investigation of Utah Attorney General John Swallow ended Thursday without charges, enabling him to shrug off at least some of the allegations that have dogged him since taking office in January.

Though he won't be charged by the U.S. Department of Justice, the state's top law enforcement officer remained the focus of several other ongoing investigations.

Swallow, a Republican, said outside the state Capitol on Thursday that his personal attorney was told the public integrity section of the DOJ was not seeking charges.

The agency declined to discuss the case, saying it doesn't comment when investigations are opened and closed.

Swallow said he was elated and appeared calm and confident, occasionally breaking into a smile.

"I knew at the time that I hadn't done anything wrong," he said. "And now the people of Utah know that they can trust their attorney general."

Federal prosecutors had been investigating a claim made by indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson, who is accused of running a $350 million Internet credit card scheme, that Swallow arranged a deal to pay U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to quash a federal investigation. Reid has denied the allegation.

The case was handed over to the Justice Department in May by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah.

Former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff told KSL Radio's Doug Wright earlier Thursday that his attorney had received similar news about the probe. Shurtleff had been linked to some of the claims against Swallow.

Attorney Rod Snow, who represents Swallow, said Justice Department officials didn't elaborate when they told him no charges would be sought.

"The way I interpret that is that they don't think there is sufficient, credible evidence to continue the investigation," Snow said. "But the DOJ wouldn't say that because they never say that."

Several other investigations remained open, including a probe by two county district attorneys into whether Swallow's office broke any state laws. Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill declined to divulge specifics, saying only that a number of allegations had been made.

Gill said the ending of the federal investigation will help him and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings in their joint inquiry. They also are working with the FBI, Gill said.

"We were waiting for them," Gill said of Justice Department investigators. "This will allow us to move ahead without any overlapping concerns."

Snow said he was surprised to hear Gill and Rawlings will push forward with an investigation involving essentially the same evidence Justice Department officials had reviewed.

"We're happy to work with them like we did with the DOJ," Snow said. "If they are fair and objective, they won't be looking for very long."

Swallow also is the subject of two complaints to the Utah State Bar. One is related to the bribery case. The other alleges general violations of ethical standards required of attorneys.

In addition, the state elections office is investigating allegations that Swallow violated campaign laws by failing to disclose several business interests. And a Utah House committee has launched a fact-finding probe involving all the allegations that could lead to impeachment by the Republican-dominated Legislature and cost as much as $3 million.

During the investigations, some critics have raised questions about whether Swallow's interactions with businessmen such as Johnson were unethical.

Swallow maintained all of the allegations against him are baseless.

"Now that the pre-eminent law enforcement agency in the country, the public integrity section, has just cleared me, I think that speaks volumes," he said.

On KSL earlier in the day, Shurtleff's voice was breaking as he spoke about the toll the investigation had taken on him and his family.

"I always knew at the end of the day there was nothing they could charge me with," Shurtleff said. "Obviously I couldn't be more pleased and grateful."

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Follow Michelle L. Price on Twitter at http://twitter.com/michellelprice and Brady McCombs at https://twitter.com/BradyMcCombs .


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