SPANISH FORK, Utah (KUTV) — Utah County Attorney David Leavitt is calling for an investigation of Sheriff Mike Smith’s handling of allegations involving "ritualistic sex abuse."
Leavitt called a press conference Wednesday morning after the Utah County Sheriff’s Office told the media the night prior that it is investigating a child sex abuse ring that operated in Utah, Juab, and Sanpete counties between 1990 and 2010.
At the press conference, Leavitt announced that he and his wife were subjects of a child sex abuse investigation approximately 10 years ago, but claimed those allegations were totally untrue.
“I learned that my wife and I were part of those allegations, allegedly that we were guilty of cannibalizing young children, and murdering young children,” Leavitt said.
Leavitt called the victim of the case ‘tragically mentally ill’ and dismissed that he or his wife had ever participated in ritual child sex abuse.
“To have [my wife’s] reputation, her professional character and everything about her life’s work called into question brought into question by a few cheap political opportunists offends me to the depth of my being. It does nothing but to demean the integrity of me, my wife, and 15 other members of this community who had absolutely nothing to do with a discredited case from 15 years ago,” Leavitt said
Leavitt said the woman’s allegations named "15 to 20" other people and that the case was debunked. Leavitt suggested the timing of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office announcement of its 'ritualistic sex abuse’ investigation is politically motivated. "
“There is no organized ring of abuse, it was debunked more than 10 years ago, it was dismissed by someone who was not in any respect affiliated with me and it wasn’t even investigated in a serious way by the sex crimes task force of Utah County. That this all occurs less than one week before ballots drop in an election in which I am participating causes me tremendous concern,” he said.
At a hastily-called press conference Wednesday afternoon, Sheriff Smith said Leavitt has his facts wrong.
Smith said the ritual sex abuse investigation involves more than just the case where Leavitt said he and his wife were accused.
“Several times, Mr. Leavitt named himself and mentioned cannibalism and murder. This investigation is about child sex abuse,” Smith said. “I take exception to any victim coming forward and being categorized as ‘tragically mentally ill’. How dare you. These are victims of crimes who have mustered the courage to come forward and this is what you call them? Mentally ill. How dare you.”
Smith denied accusations by Leavitt that a Utah County Sheriff's Office sergeant had confirmed to Zeus Z24, a website that claims to be an online news site, that Leavitt and his wife were being investigated in the ritual sex abuse ring.
The Utah County Attorney's Office alleges Zeus Z24 is run by rape suspect Nicholas Rossi, who is currently fighting extradition back to Utah.
Leavitt admitted in his press conference that Rossi, who allegedly goes by the name Arthur Knight, could have fabricated the so-called 'exclusive confirmation' by the Utah County Sheriff's Office that the Leavitts were 'primary suspects' in the investigation.
Smith said nobody from the Utah County Sheriff's Office ever confirmed Leavitt is connected to their current investigation.
Smith added that Leavitt may have compromised their case by making certain statements at the press conference earlier in the day.
According to Smith, the FBI is involved in its ongoing investigation of the child sex abuse ring and dismissed Leavitt’s public statement that he should resign.
“I will not be resigning,” Smith said. “We won’t be intimidated by Mr. Leavitt.”