Investigator: Swallow destroyed, faked records

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Associated Press

Posted on December 19, 2013 at 4:06 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 19 at 8:01 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Former Attorney General John Swallow intentionally deleted electronic records and fabricated other documents to throw off any inquiry into his dealings with businessmen, a special investigator told Utah lawmakers Thursday.

Attorney Steven Reich told the House Special Investigative Committee that Swallow fabricated invoices in 2012 and made it look like they were created in 2010 and 2011.

Reich also detailed emails, calendar entries and other electronic records that were deleted or missing from Swallow's work and home computers.

"The data losses have affected virtually every communication device and email and text message account used by Mr. Swallow since he's been in public office," Reich said.

The damning report kicked off the first day of a two-day presentation to lawmakers about their probe into allegations that Swallow arranged a bribery plot and offered businessmen protection in return for favors.

Swallow resigned earlier this month after nearly 11 months in office, citing the toll of the probes by House lawmakers and other agencies. The Republican has repeatedly denied the allegations against him and said he will work to clear his name as a private citizen.

Swallow and his attorney Rod Snow did not attend the hearing Thursday.

Snow later told The Associated Press that he and Swallow denied the intentional deletion and fabrication of documents and emails.

"We do know he tried to recover them, and when they recovered 3,300 of them, he was elated," Snow said of missing emails.

After Swallow stepped down, the Republican-controlled Utah House decided to wind down its $2.3 million investigation. Beyond the committee's public presentation of findings, lawmakers plan to issue a written report in a few weeks.

Reich's presentation Thursday focused on Swallow's missing or electronic records rather than the underlying allegations.

The fabricated records and missing data hindered investigators' ability to look at the underlying allegations, Reich said.

"Let's assume that John Swallow is the most technologically unlucky human being on the face of the Earth," Reich said. "Why didn't he just come forward in the beginning and tell this committee what happened? Why is it that we had to drag every piece out?"

After they requested records from Swallow, Reich said investigators found emails, calendar entries, an iPad and a hard drive were missing. Other computers and a personal cellphone were replaced, and the hard drive of another computer was replaced and later crashed, Reich said.

Reich also said invoices and calendar entries were fabricated to support Swallow's story that he collected $23,500 for consulting work on a Nevada cement plant.

Snow said there were understandable explanations for each instance of a missing or deleted device and they were explained to investigators from the start.

Reich's presentation was one-sided and unfairly presented information out of context, Snow said.

He also said the calendar entries were created to document the consulting work he performed outside of the attorney general's office, but Snow said there are witnesses who can verify Swallow's work.

Utah businessman Jeremy Johnson has alleged that the money was actually Swallow's payment for setting up a plan to bribe U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to thwart a federal investigation into Johnson's business.

Swallow and Reid both denied the allegations. Johnson, who is facing dozens of federal fraud charges, is accused of using his Internet-based businesses to fraudulently bill hundreds of thousands of people. He has pleaded not guilty.

Reich said his findings have led him to believe Swallow intentionally deleted his electronic records to throw off any investigation into his relationship with Johnson.

Many of the lawmakers on the panel seemed to agree with that analysis.

"Unless you believe in some kind of a mystical, technology-eating dragon, there's got to be some obstruction there," said Rep. Francis Gibson, a Republican from Mapleton.

When asked about the allegations that Swallow was specifically trying to obscure his relationship with businessmen like Johnson, Snow said, "I just don't believe that's the case."

Besides the House investigation, two county attorneys and the FBI are investigating whether the Utah attorney general's office broke state law. Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings filed charges last week against an associate of Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, who has also denied any wrongdoing.

One of two complaints lodged against Swallow is pending with the Utah State Bar. The other complaint was dismissed.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced in September it was closing a federal bribery probe without filing any charges against Swallow.

In November, Republican Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, whose office oversees elections, announced he would not pursue civil penalties against Swallow for alleged campaign disclosure violations. Cox's office said a four-month investigation found probable cause that Swallow failed to disclose business interests on his campaign forms.

If a judge agreed with the investigation's findings, Swallow could be forced out of office — but because Swallow already resigned, going to court is unnecessary, Cox said.

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