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News » Deep End

Lost Cause

Utah's AG tries to find "missing" e-mails



“The fact that certain e-mails were somehow lost in translation and may have been deleted, John didn’t have anything to do with that, and a number of times he has attempted to recover them,” Swallow’s attorney, Rod Snow, said Thursday. ‘There may have been stuff lost [House investigators] wanted to see, but my view of this is it’s just a fishing expedition.” —The Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 1, 2013

Where is the man with the double hearing aids now that John Swallow really needs him? You remember the man with the double hearing aids—he was the mysterious figure blamed for tossing out several boxes of incriminating files having to do with the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Bribery Scandal.

People have already forgotten how much fun it was to see Salt Lake City’s movers and shakers squirm and sweat when the feds started looking into the very questionable means employed by those upstanding community leaders to secure the 2002 Olympic bid. The aristocrats, frauds and criminals who largely make up the International Olympic Committee were wooed with lavish gifts, “scholarships” for family members, and even complimentary medical treatment and dental cleanings, which explained in part the gleaming smiles on their well-fed faces.

To make sure it got what it paid for, the Salt Lake Olympic Committee kept detailed records of its philanthropic transactions. But when investigators asked to take a look at some of those records, they came up missing. There was, of course, a quite reasonable and innocent explanation: It turned out that a Salt Lake Olympics M&S (mover and shaker) had instructed a clerk at his law firm, the aforesaid gent with the hearing problem, to deposit those records in the firm’s files, and the hapless clerk botched the instructions.

Alas, the clerk with the double hearing aids had apparently failed to turn up the dial on his old-fashioned shirt-pocket receiver, thus rendering his bulky earphones incapable of differentiating between “store these files” and “burn these files.” If you are wondering why a careful attorney would communicate orally with a hearing-impaired employee instead of writing important instructions down, well, it shows you are disrespectful of authority.

In any case, Swallow sure could use the mysterious man with the double hearing aids right now. Attributing lost e-mails that pertain to a criminal investigation to a computer glitch just won’t wash these days. Offering such an excuse is equivalent to claiming that the dog ate your homework.

Swallow’s hard-working attorney has offered an ingenious twist on the computer-glitch excuse. He says that a few e-mails, which investigators suspect may contain incriminating evidence, were “somehow lost in translation.” He does not elaborate, but opens the door to intriguing speculation: “Lost in translation” implies that Mr. Swallow and his minions were employing at least one other language in their e-mail communications.

Let’s assume one language is English, a language that our attorney general sometimes has difficulty with, as indicated by his comment back on June 14, 2013: “I’m innocent of most of the wrongdoings.” Such a sentence spoken by a native speaker would constitute an admission of guilt. That is why Mr. Swallow’s minders scurried to suggest that Mr. Swallow is not yet fluent in English and has yet to master the subtle difference between “all” and “most.”

We are left to puzzle out what the other language was that necessitated the translation in which, according to Mr. Swallow’s attorney, the e-mails were lost? Pig Latin? Esperanto? Reformed Egyptian?

Regardless, there is at least some measure of reassurance to be had in being informed by Mr. Swallow’s attorney that his linguistically challenged client is doing his damnedest to “recover” the lost e-mails. Word on the Hill is that Mr. Swallow is turning his pockets inside out, emptying drawers, checking the glove department, looking under the sofa and even perusing the contents of his golf bag, including his argyle golf sweater, in hopes of finding misplaced e-mails.

Meanwhile, the attorney general has been having an extremely difficult time performing his public duties, what with the extensive “fishing expedition” cited by his attorney. Already, there have been several uncomfortable encounters with rowboats in the corridor, and guys in funny hats and hip-waders are making a nuisance of themselves in Mr. Swallow’s anteroom. And just a couple of weeks ago, a bag man drove his truck up the steps of the Capitol Building to make a special delivery to the Attorney General’s Office. Or was it the mysterious man with the double hearing aids?

D.P. Sorensen writes a satire column for City Weekly.