- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Attorneys for former Utah Attorney General John Swallow presented a brief defense Tuesday as one of the biggest political scandals in state history sped toward jury deliberations.

Lawyer Scott Williams said no more time was needed to disprove the allegations that Swallow accepted campaign donations and gifts in exchange for favorable treatment in investigations.

Williams contends the case is a smear campaign against a successful politician, and prosecutors are twisting the facts to fit the story they want to tell.

“We felt very confident at the close of the state’s case that the evidence was very, very weak,” Williams said outside court. “We only put on evidence of our own to clear up some things we thought the state had intentionally misled the jury on.”

The defense called five witnesses in less than three hours, including political public affairs consultant Gary Marx, who said Swallow’s campaign finance reports seemed common for a person seeking statewide office.

Marx didn’t work on Swallow’s campaigns but spoke in general about campaign finance being more “art than science” and how it’s hard for people to know how to report in-kind donations.

Swallow, 54, did not testify.

The brief defense means closing arguments will begin Wednesday.

The prosecution spent two weeks presenting its case at the influence-peddling trial.

Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, were arrested in 2014 by authorities who said they hung a virtual “for sale” sign on the door of the state’s top law enforcement office. They were accused of taking gifts such as beach vacations in exchange for favorable treatment.

Charges were dismissed last year against Shurtleff, who served as Utah’s top lawman for more than a dozen years. A prosecutor cited infighting between agencies in the sprawling probe.

A jury will decide if Swallow is guilty of nine counts, including bribery and evidence tampering.

During the trial, prosecutors dropped four counts of money laundering, bribery and evidence tampering after a key witness refused to testify.

On Tuesday, the defense team briefly tried to persuade the jury that the charges against Swallow were politically motivated, but Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills interceded and stopped that line of questioning.

Outside court, Williams said it’s telling that the case was investigated by the FBI, but the federal government passed on charges before Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill decided to prosecute.

Gill, a Democrat, was up for re-election. Swallow and Shurtleff are Republicans.

“We let the facts and our legal obligations guide us in the decision to file charges and nothing else,” Gill said.

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