After waiving his right to a preliminary hearing, Timothy Lawson, dubbed as former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s “fixer,” will stand trial in April 2017 on six felony charges in Salt Lake City’s Third District Court. Johnson stands accused of tax evasion, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity in connection with allegations of bribery and misconduct inside the attorney general’s office by Shurtleff and his successor, John Swallow.
Lawson Charged in December 2013
Lawson was originally charged in December 2013 following a months-long investigation into the alleged misconduct of Swallow and Shurtleff. Charging documents set forth that Lawson attempted to intimidate several victims of Marc Sessions Jenson, a businessman that was acquitted of defrauding investors as part of the $3.5 billion Mount Holly ski and golf resort planned near Beaver, Utah. Lawson has also been accused of threatening Utah businessman Darl McBride. McBride has said that Lawson threatened to have him beat up if he did not take down a website that painted Mark Robbins, a business associate of Marc Sessions Jenson. Shurtleff himself purportedly later met with McBride and offered to pay McBride $2 million if McBride would agree to take the sight down.
Lawson’s Close Relationship With Shurtleff and Swallow
The charging documents against Lawson also revealed the close relationship between Lawson, Shurtleff, and Swallow. According to prosecutors, Lawson, Shurtleff, and Swallow visited Jenson at his Southern California villa in 2009. Swallow and Lawson also allegedly engaged in more than 680 text messages and phone calls between the two from April 2009 and March 2013, conversing about everything from holiday plans to Swallow’s 2012 election to the FBI’s investigation into Swallow.
Lawson was a Prolific Campaign Fundraiser for Shurtleff
Prosecutors say the evidence against Lawson shows that he was a prodigious campaign fundraiser for Shurtleff, and emails from 2007 and 2008 show that Lawson and Shurtleff discussed fundraisers and meetings where Shurtleff would receive significant campaign contributions. Lawson also allegedly connected Shurtleff to several large donors, including Pre-Paid Legal Services, Mentoring of America, and St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson, who, along with his associates, gave some $200,000 to Shurtleff’s various campaigns.
AG Personnel Questioned Shurtleff and Swallow’s Involvement with Lawson
Shurtleff and Swallow’s involvement with Lawson, which has been alleged to go far beyond campaign fundraising, raised eyebrows at the Attorney General’s office, including from Swallow’s co-deputy, Kirk Torgensen. According to Torgensen, he wrote to Swallow asking, “Why are we dealing with this guy [Lawson]? We cannot ethically deal with this guy outside of Jenson’s counsel. This is inappropriate for Lawson to be doing this.” However, it appears from the charging documents that Swallow did not heed Torgensen’s advice as it related to Lawson.
UPUAA Charge Against Lawson Forewarned of Charges Against Shurtleff and Swallow
The charges against Lawson were the result of months of hard work by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, Davis County District Attorney Troy Rawlings, and investigators from the FBI and the Utah Department of Public Safety. At the time of Lawson’s arrest, Troy Rawlings said, “The very nature of the [racketeering] charge means Mr. Lawson wasn’t acting alone or in a vacuum. However, nobody else has been charged to date and all inferences beyond that point would be unfair to comment on.” While Rawlings would not make any further comment about Lawson’s alleged accomplices, we know now that both Shurtleff and Swallow were subsequently charged with similar crimes, including engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity. Shurtleff’s case was recently dismissed, while the case against Swallow marches on.
Lawson Waives Preliminary Hearing
In April, Lawson appeared in Third District Court for what was supposed to be a three-day preliminary hearing. However, at the outset of the hearing, Lawson waived his right to a preliminary hearing, instead opting to go to trial. The court thereafter set an arraignment for June 20th. Lawson pleaded guilty to all of the charges against him at the June 20th hearing. A status hearing was set for August 15th to discuss further issues in the case.
Lawson’s Trial Set for April 2017
As noted, at the August 15th hearing, the court set a trial date for Lawson’s case in April 2017. The trial is scheduled for six-day period, beginning April 13, 2017. Both Shurtleff and Swallow may be called as witnesses in Lawson’s trial.
Preliminary Hearing Set in Social Security Case Against Lawson
Also on August 15th, the court set a November 23rd date for a preliminary hearing in a Social Security fraud case against Lawson that was filed earlier in 2016. In that case, prosecutors have charged Lawson with communications fraud, theft, and making false or inconsistent statements for allegedly lying to the Social Security Administration. Prosecutors say that between April 2012 and September 2013, Lawson twice told administrative judges from the Social Security Office of Disability Adjudication and Review that he had been unemployed or worked fewer than five hours a week. The claims resulted in a January 2014 award of $86,810 to him and his family, court papers say. Prosecutors contend that state workforce services records show that in 2009 and 2010, Lawson reported owning a share in a Marshall Islands-based hovercraft business and operated a gluten-free bakery.
* Photo Cred.: fixercomic.com