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Former Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff pleads not guilty to pay-to-play charges

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff pleaded not guilty on Monday to seven charges of obstructing justice, accepting improper gifts such as beach vacations, and other counts.

The 57-year-old Republican entered the plea during a brief hearing Monday morning in a Salt Lake City courtroom.

Shurtleff, who wore a dark pinstriped suit and tie, did not speak during the five-minute hearing as he stood next to his lawyer in court.

After the hearing, defense attorney Richard Van Wagoner told reporters outside the courtroom that no plea deal has been offered to his client. Shurtleff has previously said he would not consider a plea deal and is looking forward to clearing his name.

No trial date has been set in Shurtleff's case, but he is due back in court in August.

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

Shurtleff and his GOP successor, John Swallow, were arrested last summer after prosecutors said the men engaged in a wide-ranging pay-to-play scheme where they traded favors with businessmen in trouble with regulators during their combined 13 years running the state attorney general's office.

PHOTO: Former Utah Attorney Gen. Mark Shurtleff walks in the hallway outside the courtroom Monday, June 29, 2015, in Salt Lake City. Shurtleff pleaded not guilty Monday to seven charges of obstructing justice, accepting improper gifts such as beach vacations, and other charges. If convicted, Shurtleff faces up to 30 years in prison.  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Former Utah Attorney Gen. Mark Shurtleff walks in the hallway outside the courtroom Monday, June 29, 2015, in Salt Lake City. Shurtleff pleaded not guilty Monday to seven charges of obstructing justice, accepting improper gifts such as beach vacations, and other charges. If convicted, Shurtleff faces up to 30 years in prison. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Swallow faces 13 charges, including bribery and tampering with evidence. He is scheduled to enter a plea to the charges on July 27.

Swallow has denied any wrongdoing. He, too, faces a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted.

Shurtleff originally faced three additional bribery charges. But earlier this month, prosecutors dropped those counts without explanation.

Legal experts say the remaining charges of accepting improper gifts are easier to prove at a trial than bribery, and prosecutors appear to be tailoring the charges to their evidence.

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

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

Swallow resigned after less than a year in office in late 2013.


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