Tuesday was a day of irony.
Two former Utah attorneys general, arguably the top legal position in the state, the standard by which all other legal administrators look to, were arrested after a lengthy investigation by state and federal authorities.
Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow spent only a brief time Monday in custody while they were booked and processed before their quick release on bond.
We urge all involved in this case to carefully consider the law, not politics, as details about this case roll out.
We know that won’t be easy.
Both Shurtleff and Swallow have been a lightning rod for criticism during the last few years and we already have seen many critics rush to judgment.
We know the conviction rate of most FBI cases, and we understand the seriousness of the charges, but just as we demand the highest level of legal prowess for others caught in our legal system, we expect the same treatment by those on both sides of this case.
Swallow faces charges of receiving or soliciting a bribe or bribery by public servant, false or inconsistent material statements, evidence tampering and misusing public monies, all second-degree felonies. Shurtleff faces charges of unlawful acts, two counts of receiving or soliciting a bribe or bribery by a public servant, receiving a bribe or bribery for endorsement of a person-public servant, witness tampering, evidence tampering and obstruction of justice.
Details about each of the charges will be forthcoming and many questions remain, like why does John Swallow have a listed alias?
Shurtleff, a Republican, claims the charges are politically motivated by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, a Democrat. According to Shurtleff, Gill’s investigation is incomplete and is prompted by his own political ambitions during a re-election year.
Gill, however said he has the cooperation from a Republican county attorney, the state department of public safety and the FBI as evidence that inquiry is not politically motivated.
Swallow resigned in late 2013 after spending nearly 11 months dogged by the bribery and corruption allegations. Swallow adamantly denied breaking any laws and said the toll of the scrutiny had become too much for him and his family.
Shurtleff, his predecessor, is Utah's longest-serving attorney general. He left the office in early 2013 after a dozen years in office, but allegations of corruption followed him.
Swallow served as chief deputy for Shurtleff from 2009 to early 2013.
Utah’s legal community has obviously carefully watched this case unfold. And we’ve seen supporters and critics sound off.
The ongoing drama has already drawn Utah into a spotlight we wish would shine elsewhere. The best way to fix this is to methodically and professionally work through the justice system and restore confidence in our legal process.
The position of attorney general carries with it an expectation of integrity and the highest moral and legal conduct. If, in fact, a guilty verdict is returned, we expect the state to pursue the strongest penalties possible.