For Immediate Release, Sept. 6, 2019, Salt Lake City—A four-year saga that began with allegations against former AG John Swallow by St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson, now serving a federal prison sentence, was seemingly ended in 2017, when Swallow was uniformly acquitted of all charges against him.
Although fully exonerated, Swallow’s ordeal continued when he was compelled to sue the state to recoup the $1.5 million-plus in legal fees he was required to incur to answer the charges and clear his name, citing a Utah law that requires the state to pay a defendant’s legal bills if a public official is exonerated from charges filed in connection with activities that allegedly occurred while in office. The new AG, however refused to pay, arguing that because Swallow was no longer in office when he was acquitted, the law should no longer apply.
Utah’s third district court, however, refused the state’s motion to dismiss Swallow’s suit, with the Third District Judge Andrew Stone, writing in his June 2018 ruling, “The court is not persuaded that the Legislature intended that an officer or employee remain in office or remain employed through the entire criminal proceeding until the point of acquittal in order to qualify for the reimbursement of fees,” noting that if this were the case, it would incentivize the government to fire public employees accused of a crime.
Today, as noted in the agenda of the Special Session of Utah’s legislators, the journey has finally ended with a settlement between the parties that the state has approved. Six years after the allegations were made, the ordeal is over and Swallow is free, at last, to resume his life and career, albeit without completing the AG position he was forced to leave in order to defend himself against the barrage of investigations.
In response to the settlement, Swallow has issued a statement, as follows:
Statement of John Swallow on Settlement with the State of Utah
Seven years ago I was elected as Attorney General and just over a year later I gave up my position to clear my name. Today, the State has provided a reimbursement for the expenses of defending myself against a barrage of investigations and a jury trial on allegations related to my service.
Throughout the ordeal, except to defend my innocence, I remained largely silent on the many false stories from anonymous or biased sources and availed myself to the only unbiased and determinative process at my disposal—a trial before eight randomly-selected citizens. Those ordinary, yet extraordinarily committed citizens heard every allegation, scoured the evidence presented by experienced prosecutors, and made a unanimous decision to clear me. A few months later, attorneys working for the Utah State Bar reviewed the trial, all allegations and evidence of the multiple investigations and cleared me regarding my professional ethics (see attached letter from the Utah State Bar’s Office of Professional Conduct). Thus, by credible and determinative processes accepted in our society for proof of guilt, I remain innocent.
The State’s reimbursement is largely symbolic. Our family could never be fairly compensated for the cost and loss of these past years. The impact on our lives and reputation of the utterly false allegations, and the reaction to allegations made against me, my service and my character, including claims that I would, or even could, personally profit by selling out my office, are immeasurable.
But defending my honor now requires me to speak up. We live in a time when public servants are exposed to the political risk of being misunderstood and misjudged for doing the people’s work. Public officials are required to respond to and serve a constituency and even assist them at times. Today, incident to this payment, I want to make it perfectly clear that any allegations or reports of any misuse of the public trust, any inclination to use my office to further my financial gain, any act of deception or dishonesty on my part, at any time, are absolutely false.
Suzanne and I carry gratitude in our hearts, without bitterness or blame for others. We believe that many who believed the allegations, and acted in response, were acting in good faith. For those who acted not in good faith, we leave to them to deal with themselves and their sense of conscience. I am proud to have served and wish to thank the citizens for the opportunity. We are also grateful to the many who have believed in my innocence and extended a prayer, a note or a hand to us. We consider my time in service as among the choicest and most rewarding experiences of our lives.
Former Utah Attorney General and State Representative
Swallow has declined to address the terms of the settlement in further detail; however, he is satisfied that at long last, his name has been fully cleared and justice is served. At the other side of his journey he vows to speak out and act boldly toward improvement of the government and judicial processes that allowed situations such the five-year process to clear his name to occur.
In addition to his legal practice, Swallow keynotes events and conducts workshops to teach individuals at all levels to strengthen their abilities to withstand any challenge, and beyond this, to forge the ability to enact positive change.
For more information about events, publications and presentations by John Swallow, readers can visit www.JohnSwallow.com