Utah County District Attorney, Sheriff trade accusations, verbal barbs in dueling news conferences

Utah County Attorney David Leavitt (left) and Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith. Photos: County portraits

UTAH COUNTY, Utah, June 1, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah County Attorney David O. Leavitt on Wednesday called for Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith to resign and UCSO spokesman Sgt. Spencer Cannon to be put on leave pending a review of their handling of child sexual abuse investigation announced Tuesday.

The case announced Tuesday, regarding alleged ritual abuse of children between 1990 and 2010, and allegedly involved wrongdoers in Utah County, Juab County and Sanpete County. Agencies from multiple counties are involved, as are federal investigators.

Leavitt said he had been provided with a lengthy report on the current investigation, and said the document links him and his wife to the case, saying they are not suspects, but are mentioned in documents he was given.

Leavitt declined to say exactly how he and his wife were mentioned in the document, and admitted to reporters he had not read the entire  case file.

The Utah County Attorney also said a former neighbor and one-time church leader of his figured prominently in the original case.

In addition, Leavitt characterized the investigation to be about allegations of sex, murder and cannibalism involving juveniles. He also characterized one person who years earlier claimed to be a victim as “mentally ill.”

Leavitt said the UCSO issuing of the news release was a clear attempt to hurt his standing in the community before the upcoming primary elections, on June 28.

“The allegation that I am asserting is that the sheriff’s office is using its position for political gain and accusing them of abusing and cannibalizing and murdering children. And no, I will not step aside.”

Asked by a reporter how his complaint was connected to the news release about the renewed investigation, released on Tuesday by Cannon, Leavitt just said “they’re connected.”

Asked again to elaborate, Leavitt said he would make a graphic to illustrate the connection, but he could not say when the graphic would be ready, adding,” Yeah, this wasn’t on my docket of things to do yesterday.”

A few minutes after saying he would accept questions, and several spirited exchanges with reporters, Leavitt left the room abruptly and did not return.

Sheriff Smith

A few hours after Leavitt’s news conference, Sheriff Smith called his own to rebut what Leavitt had said.

Smith said no case documents had been released, and Lt. Cannon had revealed no names associated with the investigation.

The Utah County Sheriff also said the timing of the news release was not to inconvenience Leavitt, but to seek more information from the public after 20 victims and witnesses had come forward to provide information about ritual child abuse decades earlier.

Smith also clarified that the investigation was about child abuse, not murder or cannibalism.

“I will tell you right now, I think that probably the best way we can use public funds is to investigate your child’s sexual,” Smith said. “Don’t be misled by the main focus of this investigation…. this investigation is about child sexual abuse.”

Leavitt, at his own news conference, touched on information the Sheriff’s Office would never have released in an ongoing investigation, Smith said, adding Leavitt “possibly tainted this investigation.”

Smith also criticized Leavitt for his characterization of an alleged victim in the original case.

“I take exception to any victim who comes forward and is characterized as tragically mentally ill. How dare you? These are victims of crime who have mustered the courage to come forward, and this is what we call them, ‘mentally ill,’ our victims of crime? They should not be shamed for having the courage to come forward.”

Smith added, “I will not be resigning, and Spencer Cannon will not be disciplined for doing his job.”

See Smith’s news conference below, and the Tuesday news release below that.

Investigation news release

In April of 2021, an investigation began into ritualistic child sexual abuse and child sex trafficking that occurred in Utah County.

The ensuing investigation discovered that other victims had previously reported similar forms of ritualistic sexual abuse and trafficking that occurred in Utah County, Juab County, and Sanpete County during the time between 1990 and 2010. Portions of these allegations were confirmed. 

These allegations are being investigated by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office in cooperation with other local and federal agencies.  We are pleading with the public and encourage victims, or individuals with knowledge of these crimes, to contact the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Special Victim’s Unit, so that they can be offered all the assistance possible.

We understand that there are individuals who have concerns for their safety and/or well-being, who have been silenced.  We need your help.  

Contact the Utah County Sheriff’s Office at 801-851-4010.


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