The relationship between state and federal prosecutors in Utah reached such a low last year that Utah’s Attorney General Mark Shurtleff sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder castigating the state’s U.S. Attorney’s office, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Shurtleff, a Republican, wrote to Holder in March 2009, complaining that federal prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office were commandeering high-profile cases and offering lenient plea deals to child predators.
“Unfortunately, my office has not had a favorable experience with the United States Attorney’s Office the past few years, as a partner in the criminal justice system,” Shurtleff wrote, according to the Tribune. “Rather, the current U.S. attorney has sought headlines and press conferences to promote his own image and has ignored or denigrated other law enforcement and prosecutorial offices.”
Shurtleff first mentioned the letter in an interview with the Tribune in June 2009. The newspaper asked for a copy, and Shurtleff’s office declined to release it. A state records committee sided with the newspaper, and the Attorney General’s office appealed. In the past few weeks, the Attorney General’s office dropped its appeal and agreed to pay the newspaper’s legal bills.
Brett Tolman, who served as U.S. Attorney at the time, said Shurtleff never requested a meeting to discuss his concerns and the state Attorney General later apologized for sending the letter.
“At the time it was written, and even today, I didn’t care . . . and I don’t know whether or not Mark Shurtleff approved of my performance as U.S. attorney or what we did,” Tolman said. “Our goal was not to meet the approval of an individual but to do our job.”
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office said federal prosecutors now have a good working relationship with their state counterparts.
“I think that was then, this is now. I think a lot of those issues were resolved between Mr. Tolman and Attorney General Shurtleff,” spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch said. “It may have been a snapshot in time that is not the case now.”