Special counsel: 60 interviewed in House AG probe

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Associated Press

Posted on October 8, 2013 at 3:06 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — More than 60 witnesses have been interviewed so far as part of a state House committee's investigation of Utah Attorney General John Swallow, the committee's special counsel said Tuesday.

Attorney Steven Reich of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld gave lawmakers on the committee a brief update on the probe at the committee's third meeting.

Nine investigators working on behalf of the committee conducted the interviews over the past three weeks.

The witnesses have generally been cooperative and the interviews will help the committee determine what documents they would like to review, Reich said.

"We have numerous additional leads to follow," he said.

The committee has already issued three subpoenas, demanding documents from Swallow and others that detail the attorney general's business dealings and records of gifts, favors or spa vacations he received from a list of businessmen.

Swallow has been dogged by allegations of misconduct since shortly after assuming office in January, when federally indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson accused Swallow of arranging a plot to bribe U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Reid, a Democrat, and Swallow, a Republican, have denied the allegations.

His spokesman Paul Murphy said Swallow will cooperate with investigators and comply with the subpoenas.

In addition to the House investigation, two district attorneys are investigating the attorney general's office.

Swallow is also the subject of complaints at the state bar and an investigation by elections officials into whether he violated campaign disclosure laws.

He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and says the ongoing investigations will clear his name.

In July, the Republican-controlled Utah House formed the bipartisan committee to look into the allegations.

Reich said Tuesday that investigators on his team have had discussions with some of the other agencies investigating Swallow and want to ensure they're not hampering those processes.

"There are a lot of folks out there who are looking at issues that we're looking at it," Reich said. "It's important to the greatest degree that we can that we coordinate those efforts."

Reich did not reveal any additional details in the public meeting Tuesday morning before lawmakers moved to close the meeting.

Rep. Jim Dunnigan, a Taylorsville Republican and the committee's chair, said the committee was going into a private meeting to receive legal advice and discuss the character, professional competence or physical or mental health of an individual, whose name was not disclosed.

Both of those types of conversations are exempt from state public meetings laws.

Lawmakers expected to be in the closed meeting for most of the morning, Dunnigan said.

Some Utah legislators have questioned whether the House should continue investigating after the U.S. Department of Justice closed its own federal bribery probe of Swallow and told his lawyers in September it would not file any charges. Former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who was linked to some of the claims against Swallow, received similar news from his lawyer.

In addition to the claims from Johnson, Swallow also faces accusations from Marc Jenson, a businessman convicted of fraud who's serving a prison sentence for failing to pay restitution.

Jenson said Swallow and Shurtleff made promises or offers of legal protection in exchange for cash, favors and spa vacations.

Swallow and Shurtleff have denied those allegations.

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