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Shurtleff sets several goals for ‘last’ term as Utah’s AG

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Mark Shurtleff

Mark Shurtleff

Newly re-elected Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff insists his third term as the state's top prosecutor will be his last.

"I made a promise to my wife it's the last time I run for attorney general," he chuckled. "So far she's accepted that. She hasn't asked me if that means I won't run for anything else, and I haven't promised anything."

But pressed if he plans to run for another office, the Republican incumbent did not discount a future run for governor or U.S. Senate.

"There's things I could do as governor that I think would benefit the state," he said in a recent interview with the Deseret News. "I've always had an interest in the United States Senate ... but it all depends on timing and who's in and who's out, who's going to run again. So I just keep my options open and, in the meantime, do my job. I think that's the best thing I can do, is be a good attorney general."

Re-elected by a wide margin over his opponents, Shurtleff said he has some initiatives he'd like to accomplish in his final term — including a crackdown on prescription drug abuse and Internet-based crimes against children, more investigations and prosecutions of crimes within polygamous groups, and expanding an identity theft database.

"It's kind of a mandate to continue," he said of his re-election.

Shurtleff said he wants to see tougher laws on prescription drug abuse and an upgrade on a state database to track prescription drug transactions.

"I want to look at taking prescriptions and make them all electronic. Do away with the script because it can be abused, altered, shopped around to multiple pharmacies," he said.

Shurtleff said he plans to continue his office's investigations of crimes within polygamous sects and indicated he would like to see more prosecutions. In the interview, he hinted about going into mediation over the United Effort Plan Trust — the real-estate holdings arm of the Fundamentalist LDS Church.

The UEP Trust, which controls land in the polygamous communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., was taken over by the courts in 2005 amid allegations that FLDS leaders mismanaged it. Lately, FLDS members have challenged the court reforms. On Friday, a judge announced that lawyers would be entering into settlement talks over the future of the trust.

"I'd like to see it resolved before I leave office and put that whole thing back in the hands of a board of trustees that is fair, and it would include both members of the FLDS and prior members of the FLDS that can hopefully get along and do their job," Shurtleff said.

Mortgage fraud is an increasing problem in the new economy, and the Utah Attorney General's Office has seen an increased caseload. Scams promising to save homeowners are also on the rise.

"It's a major criminal issue for Utah," said the attorney general, who noted that a position to help crack down on mortgage fraud was cut in the Utah Legislature's latest special session.

The Utah attorney general's identity-theft reporting system, a one-stop reporting center for ID theft victims nicknamed IRIS, is still being perfected. Other attorneys general are beginning to look at Utah's system, which is designed to make it easier for victims to report it to law enforcement and get help from banks and credit bureaus to clear their stolen name.

"I really would like to see that a nationwide database before I end this term," he said.

The attorney general is bracing for budget cuts in the upcoming legislative session — worried that he faces losing employees.

"Crime isn't going down. In fact, during hard economic times, crime goes up," he said.

Shurtleff is also still facing a long and painful recovery from a motorcycle crash last year that shattered his leg. He was practicing for a charity motorcycle ride for slain police officers when he hit a patch of gravel and laid a Harley-Davidson down on his left leg.

After numerous surgeries, Shurtleff's doctors agreed to try a unique procedure to save his leg. It is now encased in halos with wires running in and out of his leg. If it didn't work, his doctors had discussed with him the possibility of amputation.

After his last hospitalization, Shurtleff said he got some good news: His broken bone was growing, and there was a chance that within a few months he could be walking without the awkward device encasing his leg.

"It's a good sign," he said.

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com