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The seventh day of the John Swallow public-corruption trial is expected to start much the way the sixth one ended: With the court and a critical state witness in a stalemate.
Former St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson refused to testify for Salt Lake County prosecutors Wednesday, even after 3rd District Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills ordered him to do so.
"I don't mean to disrespect the court," Johnson said. "But I can't answer."
Hruby-Mills sent Johnson, who is already serving a federal prison sentence and appearing in handcuffs, to the Salt Lake County jail after finding him in contempt.
Johnson is refusing to testify out of fear he could be prosecuted for what he might say. County prosecutors offered him an immunity deal, but Johnson's lawyers say they're more worried about what federal investigators an attorneys might do.
Johnson is expected to get back on the stand Thursday morning so the court can ask if he has had a change of heart.
There is no reason to expect that he has.
Johnson's refusal throws a significant wrench into the case for prosecutors. Four of the 13 charges Swallow faces are tied to Johnson.
The latest from Day 7 of the trial:
Jeremy Johnson took the witness stand Thursday afternoon and again refused to answer questions.
Prosecutor Chou Chou Collins: "Are you going to answer questions about John Swallow?"
Johnson: "No, ma'am."
Asked about meeting John Swallow, Johnson said that on advice of counsel, he is not answering. He invoked the Fifth Amendment.
Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills asked Johnson if he understands that he has been ordered to answer.
Johnson: "I believe I'm doing the right thing by exercising [my] Fifth Amendment right."
The judge then sent Johnson back to the Salt Lake County jail, where he spent the night Wednesday. He will be brought back to court again Friday.
Jeremy Johnson's attorney Karra Porter told the court the sides have drafted an immunity grant, but she did not know if it will be signed. Prosecutors have submitted the letter to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Porter also added a statement from Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings to the court record. Earlier Thursday, Rawlings issued the statement in reaction to a one by a Salt Lake County prosecutor that Rawlings was acting to undermine the Swallow case.
Porter said she is not sure that anyone but Rawlings, who is deputized as a special assistant Utah attorney general, can grant Johnson immunity from activities that might have happened outside Salt Lake County.
Johnson who was jailed for contempt of court Wednesday for refusing to testify in the Swallow trial has been caught in crossfire between jurisdictions, Porter said.
She added that the issue of whether Johnson will testify can't be resolved Thursday, and again asked for the contempt order to be vacated.
Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills ruled that no person can be compelled to testify against himself, but that immunity laws protect Johnson.
Finding that Johnson has been granted immunity, the judge denied the request to vacate the contempt order.
Johnson is expected to be called to the witness stand after he talks to his attorneys in holding cell next to court.
Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings fired off a written response Thursday to an in-court statement by a prosecutor that Rawlings was acting to undermine the Swallow case.
That's what Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Fred Burmester said about Rawlings during a debate over an immunity deal offered to Jeremy Johnson, a key state witness. Burmester's frustration was that Rawlings had commented on the dispute to Johnson's attorneys, when he is also on a witness list for the defense.
Rawlings had offered Johnson an earlier immunity deal which attorneys for the imprisoned online marketer say was not honored by the federal government.
In a statement, Rawlings, who is deputized as a special assistant Utah attorney general, said he can't ethically "hide" information from a defendant or ignore evidence.
That is why, he wrote, he talked with Johnson's attorneys about the offered immunity deal and what issues they might need to consider in making a decision.
An attorney for Jeremy Johnson on Thursday told a judge the imprisoned St. George businessman will continue to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify in the public corruption case of former Utah Attorney General John Swallow.
Mary Corporon also asked 3rd District Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills to vacate her Wednesday order that found Johnson in contempt after he refused to testify.
That order was a violation of Johnson's due-process rights, she said, because the issue of whether Salt Lake County could grant him immunity that would apply also to possible federal investigations or actions was unclear.
Corporon also restated Johnson's fear that past offers of immunity have not held up. She said she understands there are already possible investigations underway in California, Nevada and Utah, where Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings is seeking to convene a grand jury that could involve or implicate Johnson.
Salt Lake County prosecutors disagreed and expressed frustrations with Rawlings, who they said is working to "undermine" their case and "acting like the Tasmanian devil."
The judge didn't reverse her order, but did ask prosecutors to work with Corporon to draft an immunity letter that would suit both Johnson and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Hruby-Mills asked for an update on the draft by 1 p.m.
Johnson, meanwhile, remains in custody.
Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills asked prosecutors to work with Johnson's attorney to obtain an immunity agreement letter with the Department of Justice.
The judge said she will revisit the issue after lunch. Johnson will stay in a holding cell until then.
Johnson's attorney Mary Corporon said that a letter of immunity drafted Wednesday by the Department of Justice fixes Utah and federal problems, but not those in other jurisdictions.
After spending a night in jail for contempt of court, Jeremy Johnson will again invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to testify if put on the witness stand, his attorney told Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills on Thursday morning.
Despite grants of immunity from Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and federal authorities, attorney Mary Corporon said Johnson has been granted immunity in Utah before, and it didn't hold up.
Corporon also suggested there are possible investigations pending in Nevada and California.