When I first met Mark Shurtleff, he was Utah Attorney General leading the case against my clients, the Brown family in the Sister Wives case. After years of abusive investigations and public statements, we challenged the state criminalization of polygamy and Shurtleff fought to defend the law. Shurtleff is now on the opposite side of the line and has decried the treatment of his own family in the investigation of his own alleged wrongdoing. Shurtleff angrily denounced the Utah law enforcement as basically thugs engaging “Dirty Harry” tactics in a raid on his home.
There have been allegations that Shurtleff made prosecutorial decisions based on political donations or personal relationships. There is also a report of an alleged secret recording on which Shurtleff is reportedly heard offering a $2 million bride to businessman, Darl McBride, to assist another prominent businessman, Mark Robbins.
The Utah Department of Public Safety and the FBI served search warrants at the both houses of Shurtleff and his successor at Attorney General John Swallow (who also fought the case of the Brown family). Shurtleff’s 17-year-old daughter was home and in the bathroom when investigators entered the house. He described officers “in masks” carrying assault rifles. He said that she was forced to leave the bathroom with her hands in the air by body armor wearing officers, including one who kept a laser sight trained on her chest.
The officers seized even the computers of Shurtleff’s children and he said “trashed” the home — another common complaint that existed during his tenure as Attorney General. Shurtleff decried the tactics directed against his own home: “These John Wayne wannabes, freakin’ Clinton Eastwood `Dirty Harry’ tactics were absolutely unacceptable and unneeded.”
Critics have charged that Shurtleff never objected to those tactics when they targeted other families during his term. We have certainly seen such over-the-top raids in various cases as police become more militarized and increasingly use no-knock warrants. One critic noted Shurtleff was particularly eager to allow for raids on copyright violators demanded by lobbyists and industry figures. He even received an award for his unrelenting raids from the industry, which said:
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) presented the honorary gold record to Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and each member of the SECURE Strike Force for their unprecedented numbers of arrests and seizing of pirated music.
. . .
“Those are real results,” said RIAA Anti-Piracy Executive Vice-President Brad Buckles. “On behalf of the major U.S. music labels, we are pleased to present Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and members of the SECURE Strike Force with honorary Gold Records as a token of our appreciation for all the hard work they’ve done to meaningfully address piracy on the streets of Utah.”
Given these raid under this tenure, Shurtleff’s objections fell on many deaf ears: “It was way overboard, a horrific abuse, an extremely improper abuse of force, given the nature of the alleged charge, the fact there were minors in the home — there was no reason for it.”
Kudos: Michael Blott