- Associated Press - Monday, October 20, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff can make their case next month that their bribery cases should be considered separately, a state judge ruled Monday.

Shurtleff and Swallow, who face a combined 23 charges, were not required to appear at Monday’s hearing. Their lawyers appeared on their behalf.

Defense attorneys have objected to their cases being tried together, something Shurtleff’s attorney Richard Van Wagoner raised Monday at the joint scheduling hearing.

“I don’t see how the cases can or should be treated together,” Van Wagoner said.

Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills said that she would consider that next month, in addition to hearing Van Wagoner’s arguments that charges against Shurtleff should be dismissed.

“They’re completely separate charges, separate cases, separate counts, based upon separate facts,” Van Wagoner told reporters after Monday’s hearing.

He said that if the cases continue to be heard together, the allegations and facts in each case could get jumbled, making it tough for either Shurtleff or Swallow to get a fair hearing or trial.

Prosecutors on Monday declined to comment after leaving the courtroom.

Shurtleff, 57, and Swallow, 51, were arrested this summer after two county attorneys charged them bribery, evidence tampering and obstructing justice.

Prosecutors have alleged both men, while serving as the state’s top law enforcement officer, traded favors with businessmen and accepted money and gifts such as use of luxury boats and homes and California beach vacations.

Swallow, who resigned in late 2013, faces 13 charges while his predecessor Shurtleff faces 10 counts.

Neither man has entered a plea. They have denied any wrongdoing and said they look forward to clearing their names in court.

Van Wagoner said Monday that the charges against Shurtleff should be dismissed because prosecutors have not tied the allegations in court documents to specific charges.

If the case is not dismissed, both Shurtleff and Swallow may ask the judge to consider whether there’s enough evidence for a trial.

Evidence hearings may not happen before February, Hruby-Mills said Monday.

Swallow’s lawyer Stephen McCaughey told The Associated Press that the schedule and the amount of time defense attorneys need to prepare will depend on whether the cases are split.

“That’s really the big issue that’s got to be addressed here shortly,” he said.

Court documents show prosecutors have named 56 people that could be called to testify at an evidence hearing against Shurtleff and Swallow.

The list includes prosecutors and former division chiefs from the attorney general’s office, campaign staffers from Swallow’s 2012 election bid and Shurtleff’s wife. Other possible witnesses include former assistant attorney general and current state Judge Charlene Barlow and attorney Brett Tolman, who served as the U.S. Attorney for Utah during Shurtleff’s term as state attorney general.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, one of the prosecutors in the case, has said more names could be added to the list.


Follow Michelle L. Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice

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