Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Utah Governor's 'Pal' Dupes Parole Officials

Michael Blake Jensen, an admitted con artist and pathological liar was on parole for the fourth time in early 1995. He was facing possible parole violation and felony theft, and Utah parole officer David Olive and his partner, Swen Heimburg, were prepared to send Jensen back to the joint. But Jensen had other plans. He wanted to transfer his parole to Wisconsin.

Jensen told the two parole officers that he was a life-long pal of Utah governor Mike Leavitt. Initially the parole officers dismissed the claim. But Jensen, hounded by the two parole agents, had apparently called the governor's office to complain that the two were mistreating him. Such complaints are routinely passed on to the Department of Corrections (DOC).

"What the governor's office normally does is call and say, 'What's the story?"` a DOC official told Associated Press. "But our people took it as meaning that this guy has some juice, and they overreacted."

Jensen was allowed to go to Wisconsin, where he promptly violated parole by fleeing that state. He was arrested in Mississippi in March 1995 and returned to the Utah State Prison.

Several Utah DOC officials recounted events to AP reporters, but spoke only on condition of anonymity because DOC employees can be fired for "disloyal remarks" or for criticizing the DOC. They say Deputy DOC Director Jim Gillespie and other high-ranking DOC officials, apparently taken in by Jensen's "pal of the governor" story, intervened in the case several times.

"Nothing about that case was handled in a normal fashion," said one official. "This guy should have been nailed. Instead, once the governor's name was brought into it, our administration made it a pretty much hands-off kind of a deal."

Olive, who has since quit the DOC, said evidence that Jensen was a bad apple was rendered moot. "Our supervisor told us that Jensen had connections. We were told to get off his back and let him go," he said

Heimberg, Olive's former partner, and their supervisors, Ed Blanchard, Bob Poulton and former Adult Parole and Probation Region III administrator Don Blackburn all refused to talk to reporters.

According to unnamed sources, Heimburg prepared a report to the Board of Pardons describing Jensen as "extremely grandiose.. delusional... very deceptive," and in "direct violation of the parole term for some time." The report also alleged that Jensen had made "inappropriate advances" to two female real-estate agents after luring them to remote properties.

Blanchard watered down the report, acting on orders from Poulton and Blackburn, sources said. The report submitted to the pardons board blandly states that Jensen had been able to "successfully avoid prosecution... during this parole term," and failed to mention Jensen's "inappropriate advances" toward female real-estate agents. The final version of the report was signed by Blanchard.

A month later, the pardons board paroled Jensen a fifth time. Within weeks, Jensen allegedly raped a Salt Lake City real-estate agent and was involved in a chase in which a motorist was injured.

Three weeks later, Olive and Heimburg were split up and transferred out of intensive supervision parole. They filed a grievance with the department and lost. Olive quit shortly after.

"This whole thing soured me," he said. "The point is, we knew about these violations and weren't allowed [by superiors] to take any corrective action."

Associated Press

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login