Investigation Reports: Swallow Deliberately Deleted Evidence, Obstructed Justice

Former Utah Republican Attorney General, John Swallow
Former Utah Republican Attorney General, John Swallow

In the afternoon session of Thursday’s Special Investigation Committee report on former Attorney General John Swallow, Steve Reich, lead counsel for the investigation, alleged that Swallow deliberately deleted evidence in an attempt to hide crimes and, in the process, obstructed justice.

According to Reich, Swallow asked the Attorney General Office’s IT technicians to wipe the hard drive of his office desktop and laptop and replace the hard drive of his home iMac. Reich then pointed to testimony from Swallow that he had to remove some private information stemming from his role as a bishop in the LDS Church. When Reich requested the electronic devices currently in Swallow’s possession, he was informed of the memory wipe requested by Swallow, but not of the replaced hard drive in Swallow’s home computer.

This would result in the investigation attempting to recover deleted information on a hard drive that was ultimately no more than six months old and not even used during the times in question. Reich expressed frustration at this, and used it as an example of Swallow attempting to drag out the investigation, in hopes, Reich speculates, that the committee would run out of money and patience, ultimately allowing Swallow to maintain his position as Attorney General.

Reich also suspected that Swallow made attempts to cover his tracks by backing up data prior to the wipe onto an external hard drive. This device, however, was then supposedly lost on an airplane when Swallow traveled with his family to Disneyland. Reich suspects that Swallow will use this as part of his defense, allowing Swallow to say that he made reasonable attempts to protect any data the committee might have been interested in—but that Swallow was simply a victim of circumstance. This behavior continued when Swallow purchased a new office cell phone, claiming that the phone he was using during the timeframe that alleged fraud and corruption took place was no longer functioning, which erased all the data from that old phone.  Swallow also claims he lost an iPad in Washington DC, that may have contained more information the committee wanted to investigate.

Taken separately, Reich concedes that any one of these events is quite possible. When considered on a whole, however, and when considering the close time frame of every single data loss, either physical or electronic, Reich concluded these activities were not just horrible luck, but a preconceived plan to hide criminal activity.  “We don’t believe this slew of data losses can be innocently explained,” Reich said.

“I am frustrated by the cost of this investigation,” said Representative Lee Perry (Republican – Perry), “but I am even more frustrated by the fact that the cost went up because Swallow didn’t cooperate.”

The committee also heard tapes of meetings between Swallow and indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson, where Johnson suggested Swallow buy a pre-paid phone, or “burner phone,” from Wal-Mart with cash from his 2012 political campaign, in order to allude investigators. Burner phones are often used by criminals because they are very difficult to trace back to an individual, especially if they are paid for in cash. These phones can be quickly disposed of, or “burned,” allowing incognito communication.

Reich continued his presentation, directing the committee’s attention to a whole year of email activity that was unaccounted for on Swallow’s government email address. According to Reich, Swallow told investigators that the emails were lost during the statewide email merger, then later changed his story and said the emails were accidentally deleted six months prior to the email merger. Reich then methodically showed the committee the improbability for someone to accidentally delete extensive amounts of data that Swallow allegedly deleted. “When pressed about the details surrounding the missing emails, and when presented with the facts we uncovered, Swallow changed his story,” Reich told the committee.

When pressed about the credibility of Swallow’s account of the Johnson case, Reich said “I have no faith in what the committee is being told [by Swallow].” Reich closed his presentation with a question: “Why is it that we had to drag every piece out?” asked Reich. “Why is it that his story changed and morphed every time when we confronted him with our findings?”

“John Swallow is on a mystical island that only he can see,” said Rep. Mike McKell (Republican – Spanish Fork),”As I sit here and look at what our Attorney General did, it’s offensive to voters, it’s offensive to me, and I think it should be offensive to the Legislature.”

Today, Reich is expected to present more evidence surrounding Swallow’s “pay-to-play” activities, including gifts given to Swallow and trips Swallow took, including a trip on Jeremy Johnson’s houseboat.

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