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Former Utah attorney general pleads not guilty to bribery charges tied to luxury vacations

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SALT LAKE CITY — A former Utah attorney general pleaded not guilty Monday to 13 charges of bribery and other crimes after prosecutors say he accepted beach vacations and use of a luxury houseboat from businessmen in trouble with regulators.

John Swallow resigned in late 2013 amid the accusations and was arrested last summer, but he has denied any wrongdoing and said he looks forward to clearing his name in court. His predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, also was charged in the more than yearlong investigation.

Swallow, wearing a suit and tie, did not speak in a Salt Lake City courtroom Monday and allowed his attorney to enter the pleas on his behalf. He declined to comment to reporters outside court.

In addition to using a luxury jet and houseboat belonging to a businessman now facing fraud charges, Swallow and Shurtleff enjoyed meals, golf and massages at a high-end resort in Newport Beach, California, courtesy of another businessman who had been charged with fraud by their office, according to court documents.

They also accepted gifts and tens of thousands of dollars in cash and campaign contributions from people who faced or expected to face scrutiny from the attorney general's office in hopes of throwing off investigators or shaking off criminal charges, prosecutors said.

Plus, Swallow's former employer, a payday loan titan based in Nevada, gave Swallow a dozen 1-ounce gold coins when he left to join the attorney general's office.

PHOTO: Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow arrives at court, Monday, July 27, 2015, in Salt Lake City. Swallow has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges of bribery and other crimes after prosecutors say he accepted beach vacations and use of a luxury houseboat from businessmen in trouble with regulators. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow arrives at court, Monday, July 27, 2015, in Salt Lake City. Swallow has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges of bribery and other crimes after prosecutors say he accepted beach vacations and use of a luxury houseboat from businessmen in trouble with regulators. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

While working under Shurtleff, Swallow later sold back the coins one at time, receiving $17,000 in all, prosecutors said.

Both men, who are Republicans, face a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted. Shurtleff has pleaded not guilty to seven charges of obstructing justice, accepting improper gifts and other counts.

Shurtleff, 57, and Swallow, 52, spent a combined 13 years running the state's top law enforcement office. Shurtleff left in early 2013 after deciding to forgo another term and instead work in the private sector. Swallow was Shurtleff's hand-picked successor, but he stepped down after less than a year in office.

When he announced his resignation in November 2013, Swallow adamantly denied breaking any laws but said the toll of the scrutiny had become too much for him and his family.

Swallow decided to bypass a preliminary hearing in the case. His lawyer, Stephen McCaughey, said there was enough evidence to send the case to trial, but the defense had little to gain by publicly airing it before it a jury can consider it.

A judge on Monday scheduled Swallow's trial for April 2016. No trial date has been set for Shurtleff.


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

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