SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow asked a judge Tuesday to throw out more of the criminal charges against him, this time ones based on the testimony of imprisoned St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson.
Swallow's attorney, Scott Williams, claims in a new 3rd District court filing that investigators and prosecutors destroyed or lost the recording of a critical interview with Johnson, who is a key witness in the case.
"The claims made by Mr. Johnson form the very bedrock of the entire case pending against Mr. Swallow. Without access to a tape recording that, according to Mr. Johnson himself, likely contains exculpatory material, Mr. Swallow is deprived of a full and fair opportunity to mount his defense and attack the state's case," Williams wrote.
Specifically, Swallow wants charges of racketeering, accepting a gift, receiving a bribe and money laundering dismissed. The charges are among 14 felonies and misdemeanors he faces. He has pleaded not guilty. A trial is scheduled for February.
Part of the state's case stems from Swallow's interactions with Johnson, a once wealthy internet marketer who was convicted of making false statements to a bank earlier this year.
Johnson claims Swallow helped broker a deal to pay for then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's help in thwarting a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Johnson's company, iWorks.
Swallow has said he only introduced Johnson to a friend with connections to federal lobbyists.
Johnson paid Richard Rawle $250,000, but the FTC filed a complaint against him before much lobbying was done. Reid, D-Nev., has disavowed knowledge of Johnson's case.
At around the same time, federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Johnson in connection with his business, and Swallow was running for attorney general.
"As an apparent strategy in relation to his own federal criminal case, Mr. Johnson’s criminal defense attorney orchestrated circumstances designed to frighten Mr. Swallow into believing Mr. Johnson would raise issues that might hurt his campaign — particularly the circumstances surrounding the failed attempt to lobby Sen. Reid," Williams wrote.
Johnson’s "scare tactics" were to make him useful to law enforcement and prosecutors so he could broker a plea bargain and leniency for himself, Williams said.
Johnson did at least three other lengthy interviews with law enforcement, all of which were recorded and given to Swallow's defense team. Williams called it "bizarre" that the first interview was recorded by Johnson's defense attorney at the time.
"However, the recording of the first — and arguably the most important — interview has never been provided," Williams wrote, adding that neither Johnson's lawyers nor state investigators claim to have it.
Williams argues that Johnson has acknowledged that information on the recording is misleading and contains material misstatements and omissions.
On Monday, Swallow asked a judge to toss the bribery charges against him based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that he argues made the state's bribery law unconstitutional.
Swallow also has a petition pending before the Utah Supreme Court to dismiss the case because he claims prosecutors read confidential emails accessed between him and his former attorney. The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office says prosecutors and investigators did not read the emails.