- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A judge in Salt Lake City set a May 2016 trial date for former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who is charged in a pay-to-play case.

However, defense attorney Richard Van Wagoner told reporters later Monday that the May 10 date may be pushed back as lawyers grapple to review the evidence against Shurtleff.

State prosecutors are fighting with their federal counterparts to get evidence left over from a 2013 investigation of Shurtleff.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Utah investigated Shurtleff and his successor, fellow Republican John Swallow, for bribery and other crimes. In early 2013, however, the office cited a conflict-of-interest and forwarded the case to the Washington-based public integrity section of the U.S. Justice Department. The conflict of interest was not disclosed.

The Department of Justice closed its investigation later in 2013 without filing charges. FBI investigators stayed on the case to state attorneys, who filed their own cases against Shurtleff and Swallow, arresting both men in the summer of 2014.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, a state prosecutor handling the case against Shurtleff, said in court documents filed Monday that federal investigators are making his office justify each request for evidence by explaining why it’s relevant to the state case.

“It appears the DOJ has built fences, with little gates that only they can lock and unlock, around related persons, events and investigations,” Rawlings wrote in court documents.

Rawlings did not detail in court documents what records he’s seeking and declined to comment to reporters after Monday’s hearing.

Shurtleff’s attorneys also want to see the federal evidence, Van Wagoner said, but both they and Utah prosecutors might have to go to court to get it.

Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Utah, said Monday that because her office recused itself, the U.S. attorney’s office in Colorado is standing in.

Timothy Jafek, a prosecutor with that office, appeared at Shurtleff’s hearing Monday and told the judge that his office needed time to respond in the case.

Jeffrey Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Colorado, declined to comment Monday.

Shurtleff, a Republican, has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of obstructing justice and accepting improper gifts such as beach vacations from businessmen in trouble with regulators.

If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.

Swallow has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges, including bribery and tampering with evidence. He’s scheduled to go to trial in April.

Shurtleff and Swallow were arrested last summer after prosecutors said the men engaged in a wide-ranging scheme where they traded favors with businessmen during their combined 13 years in office.

In early 2013, Shurtleff left the attorney general’s office after a dozen years to work in the private sector.

He joined a Washington, D.C., law firm but resigned six months later. In April, he began posting YouTube videos to advertise his services as a criminal defense attorney.

Swallow, his hand-picked successor, resigned after less than a year in office in late 2013.


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

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