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One day after he was cleared of public-corruption charges, a grateful John Swallow said he believes the exoneration awarded him by a jury offers him broad absolution from the multiple state and federal investigations that forced him from office and left him facing felony counts.
"I honestly feel exonerated by the trial," he said. "And I've never intentionally done something that was illegal or unethical."
On Thursday, jurors acquitted the former attorney general of nine felony and misdemeanor charges, including counts of racketeering, bribery, accepting a gift, misuse of public funds, evidence tampering and obstruction of justice.
He believes that acquittal extends even further and includes the findings of the Utah House, the lieutenant governor's office and the attorney general's office, each of which accused him of various missteps or misdeeds.
The reports, he said, were mined by the Salt Lake County district attorney for evidence in support of the criminal charges.
"The jury considered all of it and exonerated me," he said. "So, yes, it's categorical."
The verdict closes the book on the biggest political scandal in Utah history one that swept up not just Swallow, but also his immediate predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, who also was charged only to see his case dropped last year.
The criminal-justice system worked for him, Swallow said, but finding himself at the defendant's table instead of the prosecution's, where an attorney general belongs was a surprise, especially after the U.S. Justice Department declined to bring charges against Swallow and Shurtleff after an 18-month investigation.
"They didn't have evidence of a crime, or they would have pressed charges," he said. "You all know, that they can indict a ham sandwich. … These are federal prosecutors. They can do what they want, but they didn't."
The Utah office of the FBI, which handled the investigation, declined to comment Friday.
The federal government's decision to walk away left Swallow feeling safe. He said it was only about 10 days before he announced his resignation from the attorney general's seat that he learned Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, who prosecuted Shurtleff, might be considering criminal charges.
Swallow recalled that a previous email exchange between his then-attorney Rod Snow and Gill had indicated that prosecutors wanted to know only if Swallow was willing to talk to them about Shurtleff.
"I didn't think I had any worries," he said.
Although he didn't want to, Swallow said he responded to a subpoena from the lieutenant governor's office, provided investigators with an interview and turned over bank records, believing he had to testify to keep his job.
"I thought we were done," he said. "I mean, [the Department of Justice's Public Integrity Section] declines and two local prosecutors are going to indict you or charge you? It didn't cross my mind."
That interview was far broader than anticipated and, in the end, felt like a "setup" to funnel information to prosecutors because they knew he wouldn't talk to them, Swallow said. "I got suckered into something."
Gill characterized the remark as being among a number of conspiracy theories and "hidden agendas" that have long swirled around the case.
"Again, what? The DOJ conspired with the House, the House conspired with the lieutenant governor and all of them conspired with us as county prosecutors and somehow we were controlling all of this?" Gill said. "People [with these entities] spent separate money, individual assets and executed on their individual responsibilities."
The Utah House investigation, for instance, determined Swallow had "hung a veritable 'for sale' sign on the office door that invited moneyed interests to seek special treatment and favors."
Swallow disputed those findings Friday, saying no one interviewed could specifically say they had paid him for favors or protections.
The lieutenant governor's report found five violations of election law and recommended going to court to have Swallow's November 2012 campaign victory invalidated. Swallow announced his resignation just before the report was made public.
Prosecutors said Swallow, along with Shurtleff and the late Tim Lawson, conspired to extract money and gifts from business executives in telemarketing, online sales and coaching industries that were subject to enhanced regulatory scrutiny.
Among the things Swallow did that prosecutors tied to criminal charges were accepting a free weekend on businessman Jeremy Johnson's million-dollar Lake Powell houseboat and staying at a ritzy California resort on the dime of private financier Marc Sessions Jenson, whom the attorney general's office had prosecuted.
In hindsight, Swallow acknowledged, his interactions with both men were mistakes that led to problems he didn't foresee.
Jenson, who testified at length during the trial, had alleged a financial "shakedown" by Shurtleff and Swallow that investigators seized on.
Swallow said Friday he wishes he never had any association with Jenson. "I had no idea that Jenson would turn into this horrendous con artist, that would destroy my life."
As for Johnson, Swallow said he regretted the infamous April 2012 meeting with the online marketer at a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop in Orem, where Johnson surreptitiously recorded their conversation about the houseboat trip and other matters.
"You know friends trust friends," Swallow said. "I didn't know that he had been sent to that meeting intentionally with an iPhone taped to his chest to try to get me to say things to make me look like a criminal."
Swallow doesn't regret his association with Shurtleff, the three-time attorney general who hired him as his chief civil deputy and anointed him heir apparent to the state's top cop post.
"I never would have worked for Mark if I had thought he was a bad person," Swallow said. "I don't recall a time when I saw him do something that I thought was wrong."
Swallow said he never understood, however, why Shurtleff pulled the plug on the state's involvement in a foreclosure lawsuit tied to a Salt Lake County couple, who had hosted a 2012 fundraiser for Swallow.
Prosecutors saw the act as suspicious and tied a bribery count to it.
Swallow said he doesn't rue his run for attorney general, despite the spiral of scandal that forced him from the post within a year's time.
Quite the contrary.
"I loved every minute of the time I served," he said. "It was horrendous in lots of ways, but the actual job and the people and the responsibilities … after being chief deputy. I felt like I was in position to do more in that office than anyone had in a long time."
Despite the difficulty of the past four years, Swallow said he has emerged a better person, who is closer to his wife of 30 years, Suzanne, and family.
"I"m hopefully wiser," he said. "But I'm still way too arrogant. I know," he said. "That's the way it is. I'm working on it."
In the hall outside the courtroom Thursday evening Swallow had told reporters his immediate plans were to go home, love his family and friends and maybe get the first good night's sleep he'd had in some time.
On Friday, he said that, per usual, he awakened at 3 a.m.
"But this time, instead of praying for protection," he said, "I was praying for gratitude."