Prosecutors say probe continues in case of former lawmaker

FBI investigation? » D.A. says that's the word
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Ten months after former Utah lawmaker Mark Walker pleaded guilty to an elections-code misdemeanor in the 2008 state treasurer's primary, the door has not yet shut on the case.

Prosecutors this week denied open-records requests from The Salt Lake Tribune , saying there is still an ongoing investigation in the politically charged matter. Salt Lake City Prosecutor Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings declined to elaborate on their written responses.

But one elected official, Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller, revealed that another agency was scrutinizing the case.

"I had arranged to meet with Troy [Rawlings]" -- next week, Miller said Thursday, "but he told me the case had gone to the feds for further investigation."

Late Thursday, Gill and Rawlings remained mum about any federal involvement in the case.

"At this time, I don't feel it would be appropriate for me to comment publicly on private, confidential communications between my office and Lohra Miller's," Rawlings said.

Gill concurred.

"Any such speculations would compromise any investigative efforts, if they were happening," Gill said, "and fundamentally that would be a dereliction in duty of any prosecutor."

FBI Spokeswoman Debbie Dujanovic declined comment on that agency's involvement in the case.

"We cannot confirm or deny an investigation," Dujanovic said Thursday evening.

In May 2008, allegations exploded during the Republican state treasurer's primary when Ellis -- then chief deputy state treasurer -- filed an elections complaint charging that Walker, then a state representative, had offered him a raise to drop out of the GOP run-off.

Ellis went on to win that primary, and then Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert forwarded the complaint to Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's office shortly after the polls closed.

Shurtleff, who had openly backed Walker in the race, subsequently tapped Rawlings, along with Weber County Attorney Mark DeCaria, as an independent team to investigate the matter.

"Mark Shurtleff had endorsed Mark Walker and had given him campaign money, so at that point we felt the conflict was pretty clear," said Chief Deputy Attorney General Kirk Torgensen. "That was why we asked a couple of neutral county attorneys to take a look."

However, state statute fell short of giving Rawlings and DeCaria any prosecutorial authority, Torgensen said.

In October, the pair sought a grand jury investigation on the matter. Then, in late November, Miller cross-deputized DeCaria and Rawlings so they could prosecute the matter in 3rd District Court.

But that never happened.

DeCaria told her the case focused on a misdemeanor charge, Miller said, so she directed them to take it to the Salt Lake City prosecutor, who deals with those matters.

Gill moved the case along and Walker entered a plea in abeyance in January -- pleading guilty to offering "an inducement not to become a candidate" in exchange for sworn testimony he provided a few months later.

Jim Bradshaw, Walker's attorney, said Thursday that all issues involving his client have been put to bed.

"There is no outstanding investigation or matter that involves Mark Walker," Bradshaw said.

Miller said she personally had no legal conflicts of interest with the politically-charged case, but acknowledged concerns about public perception and partisan politics.

Rawlings, however, voiced frustration about the hot-potato investigation.

"It troubles me greatly that it languished for months while Mark DeCaria and I and our investigators labored without actual prosecutorial authority, resources and funding," Rawlings said, "because our AG was conflicted out and our Salt Lake DA opted to be 'percepted' out for reasons of concern about public opinion."