Provo • Utah County Attorney David Leavitt on Wednesday called for an outside investigation and the resignation of the county’s top law enforcement officer, saying Sheriff Mike Smith has dredged up outlandish allegations accusing the county attorney of “cannibalizing young children” and participating in a “ritualistic” sex ring.
Leavitt said he read an investigative report the day prior that contained decades-old accusations of an illegal sex ring involving 15 people. He and his wife were both named in that undated report, a 151-page document Leavitt released on Wednesday.
The sheriff’s office did announce Tuesday that it is investigating a “ritualistic child sexual abuse and child sex trafficking” case that occurred in Utah, Juab and Sanpete counties between 1990 and 2010.
The law enforcement agency urged any victims to come forward, but released few other details and did not name anyone suspected to be involved.
Smith won’t resign, he said Wednesday, and he doesn’t apologize for using county resources on the investigation.
“I believe that Leavitt is using his authority and his pulpit to bully, distract and mischaracterize the facts of an ongoing investigation,” Smith said at a news conference.
When asked whether Leavitt is a subject of that investigation, the sheriff responded: “We don’t talk about who is under investigation.”
But Leavitt said the report names him. He believed the timing of the announcement from the sheriff’s office was suspicious, since Leavitt is running for re-election — and ballots are expected to go out next week.
“I am calling upon Sheriff Mike Smith to open his office to an outside investigation,” Leavitt said, “where outside, independent investigators are able to investigate and confirm or deny that documents from a debunked investigation from more than a decade ago were or were not used for political purposes in a Utah County Attorney’s race.”
Leavitt and Smith have been at odds since the top prosecutor came into office in 2019, and the sheriff has endorsed challenger Jeff Gray in the county attorney’s race. The investigation, Smith said, has nothing to do with the election.
“This is not political,” he said. “This is something we take very, very seriously. This is some of the most egregious crimes that happen in our community, when our children are victimized at this level.”
Smith said investigators chose to release the few details they did Tuesday because they were at a point in their inquiry where they felt it was the right time to ask potential victims to come forward. He said their investigation began a year ago when someone reported the crimes to law enforcement.
The sheriff emphasized that while Leavitt focused on accusations of “cannibalism,” the primary investigation involves sex abuse of young people.
The only forum where Leavitt is publicly alleged to have been involved with the sex ring is purportedly published online by a man who Leavitt’s office is prosecuting for a 2008 rape case. Prosecutors allege that the man faked his death in the United States, and is now living in Scotland under a different name. He has denied, through his attorney, that he is who prosecutors allege he is.
The website claims that Utah County Sheriff Sgt. Spencer Cannon confirmed that Leavitt was the head of a “widespread ritual sex abuse ring in Utah.” Cannon said Wednesday that he spoke to the man, but never confirmed to him that Leavitt or any other specific persons were suspected.