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The criminal investigation of former state Rep. Mark Walker was shrouded in political intrigue from the moment he was accused of having offered his Republican primary opponent a lucrative deal if he would drop out of the state treasurer's race.

It's been seven months and counting since Richard Ellis filed a complaint with the Utah Elections Office claiming that Walker had offered to let Ellis keep his job as deputy treasurer -- with a $55,000 per annum pay raise -- if he would abandon the field so Walker could be the party's nominee and probable winner in November.

The investigation continues, no charges have been filed, and there wasn't even a prosecutor on the case until Friday.

There are several reasons for the delay, most of them political, including, perhaps, the Utah Senate's power to reject the governor's nominees to the state judiciary. It's a point worth raising since one of the investigators in the case has twice applied for a spot on the 2nd Judicial District bench, and many of the senators who vote on judicial confirmations were strong Walker supporters.

The state of limbo began when Republican Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert chose not to act on the allegations until after the June 24 primary, which Ellis won. Herbert's office then sent the case to Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who had an apparent conflict of interest. He had given a nominating speech for Walker, donated $5,000 to his campaign and threw a fundraiser for him at the Alta Club. So Shurtleff appointed Democratic Weber County Attorney Mark DeCaria and Republican Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings to the case. But they were given authority only to investigate, not prosecute.

The alleged crime occurred in Salt Lake County, but Republican District Attorney Lohra Miller didn't take the case because of a possible conflict. Perhaps she recalls when, four years ago, Democratic attorney general candidate Greg Skordas successfully defended former Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman, a Republican, against corruption charges brought by Democratic District Attorney David Yocom. Skordas, for his efforts, was largely shunned by factions of his own party.

Finally, in October, DeCaria and Rawlings announced they would turn their findings over to a grand jury, which would have given everyone political cover in the event of a prosecution, but it appears that will not happen.

A panel of five district court judges must decide if a grand jury will be called to hear a case. District Court Administrator Debra Moore says that by law she can't say if a case has been brought before the judges. But it's evident now that the panel received it and declined to empanel a grand jury.

So Miller has chosen Salt Lake City Prosecutor Sim Gill to be the lead prosecutor in the case, assisted by Rawlings and DeCaria, and Gill will decide whether to file criminal charges.

Walker had strong support for treasurer from some of the most powerful members of the Legislature. And since the Senate recently voted down the nomination of District Judge Robert Hilder to the Utah Court of Appeals, for possibly dubious reasons, it is fair to speculate that the panel of judges may have had no stomach for calling a grand jury out of concern that the Senate would exact revenge if any of the five were nominated for a judgeship in a higher court.

It should also be noted that DeCaria was recently on the short list to fill a 2nd District Court vacancy. He was not nominated by the governor, but again is on the short list for another judgeship.

DeCaria's attempts to be nominated coincide with his investigation of Walker, which would not endear him to the vindictive senators who rejected Hilder.

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