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Judge gives former Utah A.G. Mark Shurtleff 'last shot' to make case against D.A., FBI

SALT LAKE CITY — Poised to throw out Mark Shurtleff's multimillion-dollar civil rights lawsuit against federal, state and county law enforcement officials, a federal judge decided Wednesday to give the former Utah attorney general one last chance.

Though he found Shurtleff's lawyer failed to show that investigators and prosecutors lied to obtain search warrants that led to criminal charges, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups said he has enough concerns about allegations in the complaint that he would allow time to submit more detailed arguments.

"I don't have to give you this," the judge told attorney Edward McBride. "Take whatever time you need because this is going to be your last shot."

After the hearing, Shurtleff said he would personally provide Waddoups with analysis he's asking for.

"That will be done. It's easy to do, I can do exactly what he wants, and I will do it," he said, adding he will also argue in court himself next time.

Shurtleff did not speak during the 90-minute hearing, except to ask the judge if he could step in for McBride to "pull some things together." Waddoups denied the request, saying, "I'm satisfied that Mr. McBride can fully represent you."

A former three-term Republican attorney general, Shurtleff along with his wife and two children, sued Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, FBI agents and state investigators in June 2018, claiming they falsely charged and maliciously prosecuted him for public corruption in 2014.

Throughout late 2013 and early 2014, investigators executed fraudulent and perjured search warrants to illegally seize Shurtleff's personal property, texts, phone records and emails, according to the lawsuit.

Agents wearing body armor and wielding assault rifles and other automatic and semi-automatic weapons used excessive force when they raided his Sandy home in June 2014, knowing Shurtleff was not there, his lawsuit says.

Gill eventually turned the prosecution of Shurtleff over to Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.

Rawlings dropped the charges against Shurtleff in July 2016, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made it more difficult to prosecute bribery, an inability to obtain key evidence from a federal investigation, and concerns about whether the former attorney general could get a fair trial in the high-profile case.

On Wednesday, McBride argued that law enforcement filed false and misleading affidavits that relied heavily on a con man to get a state judge to sign off on search and arrest warrants. He cited several examples, none of which appeared to satisfy the judge.

During the hearing, Waddoups repeatedly told McBride he needed to prove that the affidavits knowingly and maliciously misrepresented facts to get the state judge to find probable cause existed for the warrants.

"You haven't done that," the judge said.

If there was probable cause, prosecutors and investigators would have qualified immunity — which would protect them from being sued — and Shurtleff's lawsuit must be dismissed, Waddoups said.

But citing concerns over allegations about how law enforcement handled the case, Waddoups said he wanted a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of where prosecutors and investigators made false statements and how that would have affected the state judge's decision to issue a warrant. The document has 178 paragraphs.

Shurtleff and McBride asked for and the judge gave them 60 days to submit their arguments.

The lawsuit also names Utah Department of Public Safety investigator Scott Nesbitt, FBI agents Michelle Pickens and Jon Isakson and the Salt Lake City Public Corruption task force as defendants.

On Wednesday, Waddoups dismissed the claims against the state defendants.