This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Nearly half of Utah voters believe the prosecution of former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff on public-corruption charges should not have been dropped, and they overwhelmingly want a parallel case against his successor, John Swallow, to proceed.
New poll results gathered by Dan Jones & Associates for The Salt Lake Tribune and the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah found that 48 percent of likely voters believe the Shurtleff prosecution should have gone to trial. Nearly a third (30 percent) disagree, and 22 percent offered no opinion.
Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of the respondents believe the case against Swallow, Shurtleff's anointed successor, should go to trial, while 13 percent say it shouldn't and 22 percent gave no opinion.
A Republican, Shurtleff was charged in 2014 with multiple crimes stemming from what investigators have called a pay-to-play climate inside Utah's top law enforcement office.
A judge dismissed the case in July at the request of the lead prosecutor, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, who also is a member of the GOP.
Rawlings cited problems with securing evidence from federal investigators, a fresh U.S. Supreme Court ruling that narrowed the scope of public corruption prosecutions and an ongoing cooperation agreement with Shurtleff in which the former three-term attorney general had pledged to help with a wider corruption probe.
The poll's findings did not surprise Rawlings.
"I understand why folks feel the way they do, based on what they believe and know," he said Friday in an email. "It became impossible ethically and constitutionally to continue on with the Shurtleff prosecution."
Rawlings said he can't yet disclose all of the details of Shurtleff's case, so the public may not be aware of, or understand, the gravity and complexity of the legal issues that arose, prompting him to seek a dismissal. He hopes to speak more openly about those issues, he said.
Swallow, a Republican who resigned under pressure after less than a year as attorney general, was also charged with multiple counts in what became Utah's most sweeping political scandal.
He has pleaded not guilty.
His case is being overseen by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, a Democrat, and is set for trial in February 2017. If convicted, Swallow could spend up to 30 years in prison.
Lawyers for Shurtleff and Swallow declined to comment on the survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
Republicans were more likely to support dismissal of the Shurtleff case, with a plurality (41 percent) carrying that view. More than a third (35 percent), however, believe the matter should have gone to trial. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats (64 percent) and more than half the independents (59 percent) wanted the prosecution to continue.
All the political groups back the Swallow matter going to trial 83 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of independents.
The findings echo the sentiments heard from Tribune readers in July. A query made by the newspaper through its partnership with the Utah Public Insight Network found most readers "disheartened" by the pace of the criminal-justice system and expressed fear that neither Shurtleff nor Swallow would stand trial.
"With the political clout of the LDS and their good ol' boy network of politicians, it wouldn't be surprising if it never happens," said Salt Lake County resident Brian Dobson. "My faith has never been strong in the integrity of [Utah's] judicial system."