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Prosecutors want to keep DOJ, Shurtleff cases out of Swallow trial

FILE: Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow, right, arrives to court with his defense attorney Scott C. Williams Wednesday, July 13, 2016, in Salt Lake City.
FILE: Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow, right, arrives to court with his defense attorney Scott C. Williams Wednesday, July 13, 2016, in Salt Lake City.
Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — State prosecutors want to ban lawyers for John Swallow from bringing up the Department of Justice decision to not file charges against the former attorney general at his upcoming trial.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office also wants to prevent Swallow's lawyers from talking about the now dismissed parallel case against former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

Raising those matters would create a "strong likelihood of confusing the issues, misleading the jury, wasting time and causing unfair prejudice," prosecutor Chou Chou Collins wrote in court filings Friday.

"The mere fact the DOJ declined to file federal charges should be accorded no significance in a case pursued by state prosecutors concerning state charges," she wrote.

The DOJ Public Integrity Section declined to prosecute Swallow and Shurtleff without explanation three years ago after conducting its own investigation in allegations of wrongdoing. Still, several local FBI agents stayed on the case, working with state and county investigators.

"We do not know why the DOJ declined to file charges, and asking the jury to speculate about the DOJ’s reasoning would confuse the issues before the jury," Collins wrote.

Swallow's attorney, Scott Williams, has tried to get the DOJ's investigative reports, arguing they could contain information favorable to his client. Federal authorities have been unwilling to provide them.

Williams contends at least some of the local investigators and prosecutors are aware of the reasons the DOJ decided not to file criminal charges against Swallow.

"It is understandable that these heavily invested and chagrined agents would prefer that Mr. Swallow (and the public) not know why the experts at DOJ/PIN concluded charges were not warranted, since such a decision runs directly contrary to the state’s present prosecution," Williams said in an earlier court filing.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings cited his inability to obtain those records among the reasons he dropped the criminal case against Shurtleff earlier this year.

Now, prosecutors in are asking 3rd District Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills to prohibit references to the Shurtleff case in the Swallow trial scheduled to start Feb. 7, contending it has no relevance.

"The issues in the Shurtleff case and Mr. Rawlings’s evaluation of the case against Shurtleff do not make it any more or less likely that Swallow engaged in the alleged illegal conduct," Collins wrote.

Williams has filed various motions seeking a dismissal of the charges against Swallow, arguing the case is fraught with constitutional problems. He has said he sees little material difference between the allegations against Swallow and Shurtleff.

Swallow faces 11 felonies and two misdemeanors, including racketeering, bribery, evidence tampering, misuse of public money and falsifying government records. He has pleaded not guilty.