When the state of Utah’s legislative investigation of former Attorney General John Swallow returned allegations of corruption and forced his resignation late in 2013, many believed that Utah’s ongoing scandal was put to rest. But the persistent investigation by federal and county authorities could yield criminal indictments within the next three to six months, according to Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.
Speaking to a group of county residents and reporters from Utah Political Capitol, Gill said that the cooperation between his office and that of Davis County District Attorney Troy Rawlings has been unprecedented in its degree of non-partisan teamwork. The combined effort presently includes access to all of the documents and discoveries of many tributary sources including the Lieutenant Governor’s office, the state’s House panel investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice Public Integrity Unit, and the combined effort of extensive Davis and Salt Lake County investigations.
[pullquote]”[W]e took an oath to enforce the law… We have partnered up, and we’re committed to wherever it’s going to lead.” – Salt Lake County District Attorney, Sim Gill[/pullquote] Praising his relationship with Rawlings, Gill said, “He and I made a promise to each other almost a year ago that we would pursue this thing wherever it went, regardless of party, regardless of affiliation, and we were committed to finally finding the truth and doing our job as public prosecutors.” Gill went on to outline his frustration in the investigation because he feels that a different prosecutorial authority should be doing the work.
Last Spring, U.S. Attorney for Utah, Brent Ward, recused himself from the case due to deal-making allegations by Jeremy Johnson, the Washington county businessman who is facing numerous felony fraud charges. In May, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the case would then be handled out of Washington D.C. “But we took an oath to enforce the law,” said Gill, “and the reason the two of us are doing it is because it started out with a set of circumstances in Davis County, but 90% of it is in Salt Lake County.” The two prosecutors have cross-designated one another to be authorized to work on matters in each other’s jurisdictions. “We have partnered up, and we’re committed to wherever it’s going to lead,” Gill stated. He cited known aspects of the investigation which include influence with payday lenders, reforms, and “cronyism,” and estimated that he and Rawlings may be only halfway through finalizing the investigations and filing indictments.
Much of the initial work began with allegations involving Swallow’s dealings with Johnson. While prior Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s name was not mentioned during Sim Gill’s most recent remarks about the case, it is widely believed that Swallow’s grooming and abuse of authority began as the former chief deputy in Shurtleff’s office and that an “expanding probe” may well include both of the former Attorneys General for the state of Utah.
A unique aspect of the continuing investigation is what Gill called “an FBI detail” that has been assigned to work with these county district attorney’s offices, a move that now may have no historical precedent anywhere in the country. While the Brent Ward recusal may be considered normal, Gill’s implication was direct. “The long and short of this is very simple,” said Gill, “There are people who should be doing this that didn’t get the job done, there are violations of the law that have taken place… and we took an oath to enforce that and we are pursuing that. It’s a very nuanced and complex investigation, there are lots of moving parts to this. We sometimes sit down as investigators and say that if we were not living this, we would be reading it as some sort of John Grisham novel.”