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Did call reveal revenge plot against Shurtleff, Swallow?

SALT LAKE CITY — With the jury gone and the courtroom cleared, some continue to question exactly what happened in the now closed cases surrounding two former attorneys general and two former millionaires.

Maybe they always will.

Any time a jury trial ends in an acquittal, the public may be left wondering "what if," defense attorney and former Salt Lake County prosecutor Kent Morgan says. The same is true in the case of former Attorney General John Swallow, who was found not guilty of all charges last week in an unprecedented public corruption case.

"The (allegations) that have been charged are over, and a jury has found (Swallow) not guilty, and nothing can be done after that," Morgan said, noting that, as with any defendant, only allegations of new or different offenses could return Swallow to court.

The case is closed, Morgan emphasized.

But that doesn't mean tensions have dissipated.

On Tuesday, investigators confirmed that Swallow's predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, filed an ethics complaint in November against the state and federal investigators who built the case against the former attorneys general.

And as recently as Friday, Shurtleff continued publicly disparaging the prosecution's controversial key witness in Swallow's trial: Marc Sessions Jenson, an oft-accused former businessman convicted multiple times and exonerated once of fraud allegations.

Shurtleff and Swallow were accused of shaking down Jenson during trips on the ex-millionaire's dime to a California resort. State prosecutors dropped the charges against Shurtleff last summer. Swallow said the charges against him were politically motivated.

At the time Swallow and Shurtleff visited him at Pelican Hill, Jenson was no stranger to the attorney general's office, having negotiated a plea in abeyance in his own fraud case, which wasn't his first.

And it was the unravelling of that plea deal that Shurtleff says sparked a revenge plot by Jenson, who ended up behind bars after failing to pay $4.1 million in restitution.

He offered proof of what he believes was the beginning of "Jenson's plan for vengeance" against him and Swallow by playing part of a jailhouse phone call between Jenson and Jenson's wife that Shurtleff obtained through a public records request. The recording was played during an interview on KSL Newsradio.

In one jailhouse phone call to Jenson's wife that Shurtleff said he obtained through a public records request, Jenson talked about a visit from a reporter asking to interview him, saying he had "a story to tell."

While Jenson told his wife the reporter's appearance "shows me that all of this is real," he chose not to speak to the man, saying he'd rather just leave the accusations against Shurtleff and Swallow behind him and go home to California.

In the call, Jenson's wife says she "feels bad for John Swallow," who at the time was beginning what would be an abbreviated term as attorney general amid a hail of allegations against him.

Jenson's response was, "Karma sucks, doesn't it?" and predicting that someday people would hear his account and think, "That poor guy."

When the call — which is interspersed with personal conversations about family, an interview between Oprah and Lance Armstrong, and what Jenson had for lunch that day — turns back to Swallow, Jenson tells his wife: "(Swallow) and his boss put us through hell."

As Jenson's wife voices her pity for the unflattering coverage of Swallow in the media and hateful comments posted online about him, Jenson goes on to say, "What goes around comes around." He explains that his experience has changed him, and that where in the past he would have brushed off someone crossing him in a business deal, he wouldn't anymore.

"I used to forgive everybody. If someone screwed me out of money, (I would say) 'Oh forget it, I'm just going to go make more,'" Jenson said. "I've become a little bit more cynical, a little bit more distrusting, and a little more vengeful, I just won't let it pass anymore."

In a call with his parents, Jenson also described his meeting with a reporter who has "been reporting on Shurtleff and Swallow for years" and is "deeply involved in this Jeremy Johnson thing."

In the call, Jenson's father urges him not to worry, that the truth will be discovered.

Attorney Marcus Mumford, who represented Jenson at trial when he was exonerated of fraud and money laundering in January 2015, disputed Shurtleff's interpretation of the conversations.

"I can't explain what Mr. Shurtleff hopes to prove with these recordings. They certainly aren't how he has described and portrayed them. Mr. Jenson is talking with his family about needing to tell the truth. It's what he did in his case in 2015, and as a witness for the state in its prosecution of John Swallow," Mumford said.

Swallow, meanwhile, hasn't launched any direct criticisms regarding the investigation, but said that day after the verdict came down that the case against him was "politically motivated."

The "essence" of a jury trial, Morgan said, is a presentation of two conflicting points of view with any information deemed irrelevant kept out. The most notable missing information in Swallow's trial, he said, was the absence of Johnson's testimony.

Johnson refused to speak on the stand because his call to testify wasn't accompanied by a promise of immunity. State prosecutors offered immunity, but his attorney said the agreement wouldn't apply to any federal agency still investigating him for other crimes. Ultimately, Johnson was jailed for contempt of court and his testimony was never heard.

"If the immunity had been granted, the public would be aware of a great deal more of what did or did not transpire between the attorneys general and that convicted felon," Morgan said.

Swallow remains a defendant, along with Johnson, in a Federal Election Commission civil lawsuit, alleging he helped arrange illegal campaign contributions to Shurtleff, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and former Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Following the verdict, Shurtleff has also lashed out on Twitter against Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and the FBI investigators involved in his and Swallow's cases. Shurtleff called their actions "twisted justice," which he has said will be the title of a book he plans to write about the case.