This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Prosecutors took a jury on a winding trip Tuesday through the public corruption and misdeeds allegedly committed by former Attorney General John Swallow, asking witnesses about prepaid cellphones and lobbying efforts, payments for gold coins and political disclosures.
The state is expected to rest its case Wednesday, after 10 days of trial. Prosecutors will do so, however, without testimony from a witnesses who, they said in opening statements, would be critical to their case.
Jeremy Johnson refused for a fourth time Tuesday to take the stand in 3rd District Court, citing his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.
The St. George businessman told Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills he was following the advice of his lawyers who had unsuccessfully tried to negotiate an immunity deal with the U.S. Justice Department over the past week to protect him from potential prosecution.
With that, Hruby-Mills sent Johnson, who is already serving an 11-year prison term after a 2016 conviction in a federal bank-fraud-related case, back to jail to serve the 30-day sentence for contempt she imposed last week.
Late Tuesday, however, prosecutors filed a motion seeking Johnson's transport back to court Wednesday.
"Maybe during the night he will change his mind," Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Chou Chou Collins told the judge. "I'm optimistic."
Four of the 13 charges Swallow faces are tied to Johnson or his associates. Swallow has pleaded not guilty to all counts. If convicted, he could face 30 years in prison.
Without Johnson, prosecutors have sought to get testimony about his interactions with Swallow from others called to the stand.
That group included Cort Walker, a former director for the payday-loan company Check City, who said he met Johnson during a 2010 confab set up between the online marketer and Check City's owner, the late Richard Rawle.
According to Walker, Johnson was seeking help in thwarting a Federal Trade Commission investigation of his company and had been referred to Rawle.
It was after the meeting, Walker said, that Rawle launched RMR Consulting and set up a bank account, information sent to Johnson in anticipation of payment.
Johnson has told investigators that Swallow introduced him to Rawle, whose connections to then-Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., might help shut down the FTC probe.
Johnson has said Rawle was paid $250,000 for his assistance although it didn't stop the FTC. Just $50,000 came from Johnson; the rest was from an employee of Johnson's I Works company.
In at least one conversation with former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff Johnson painted the money paid to Rawle as an attempt to bribe Reid. Shurtleff took that information to the FBI in 2012, although no one has been prosecuted for attempting to bribe the former Senate majority leader.
Swallow has previously characterized the effort as lobbying.
Rawle paid $23,500 from Johnson's funds to Swallow, prosecutors contend, allegedly for consulting work the former Utah attorney general did on a Nevada limestone-plant project.
The money went to Swallow's P-Solutions consulting company account on the same day Rawle set up his RMR business, prosecutors say. The transactions were detailed for the jury in testimony Tuesday from a forensic accountant with the FBI. The accountant also noted that Swallow was originally listed as the registered agent and principal of P-Solutions but later replaced his own name on company documents with his wife's.
The testimony also showed that P-Solutions reimbursed Rawle for the $23,500.
The reimbursement, Walker told the jury, occurred after Swallow met with Johnson at an Orem Krispy Kreme doughnut shop and became worried that he had been paid with money from Johnson. Walker said Swallow asked Rawle to cut him a new check from a different bank account.
Under cross-examination, Walker called Rawle a "serial entrepreneur" who launched RMR to capitalize on his experience with lobbyists and regulatory issues. Walker said Rawle had acquired those skills and experience because lobbying was critical to the payday-lending industry and that big money was being spent nationally and locally to further its interests.
Prosecutors also sought testimony from Walker about an affidavit Rawle signed from a hospital bed three days before his death from cancer in December 2012.
The document explains Rawle's interactions with Swallow and Johnson.
Walker told the court he was asked by Swallow to review the document "for accuracy" and said he made some changes to it.
Defense attorneys objected to its introduction, forcing the judge to send the jury out of the courtroom.
Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Fred Burmester said the jury should hear about the "self-serving document that [Swallow] drafted and sent to a dying man to sign."
Swallow's only public statements about the document, made in a 2013 KUTV-Channel 2 story, were that Rawle had initiated its drafting.
In his affidavit, Rawle said he paid lobbyists some of Johnson's money, kept $50,000 for himself as a fee and paid Swallow for consulting work on the Nevada project. Swallow was the chief civil deputy in the attorney general's office at the time and did not report the funds on campaign disclosures forms, prosecutors say.
Defense attorneys argued that the document would confuse the jury because, without testimony from Johnson, "there is no context to it."
Hruby-Mills ruled for the defense, so jurors heard no more about it.
What they did hear, however, was Walker's description of payments made to a prepaid debit card for gold coins Swallow sold to Rawle.
Walker said he saw no documentation for the sales but was told by his boss to make between seven and 10 payments to Swallow. The amounts were also dictated by Rawle, and Walker said he didn't compare those to market values for the currency.
In court papers, prosecutors say Swallow received $17,000 in payments for the coins between June 2011 and February 2012.
Swallow has said Rawle gave him a dozen 1-ounce coins when he stopped working as Check City's lawyer, and that he later sold them back.
Under cross-examination, Walker said it wasn't unusual for the "generous" Rawle to give gold coins to employees and others as gifts. The currency, he said, came in as part of Check City's gold-recycling business.
Other testimony Tuesday focused on Swallow's campaign that won him the Utah attorney general's office in 2012.
A former campaign staffer told the jury that the campaign and every campaign she has worked on had used prepaid, or "burner" phones, for convenience and cost controls. She also said alterations to campaign disclosure documents were neither unusual nor illegal, as long as they were done per Utah's campaign finance rules.