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FOX 13 Investigates: Deputies say Utah County Attorney asked them to disregard state law for his handyman

Posted at 10:00 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 09:38:22-05

UTAH COUNTY, Utah — Deputies with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office say Utah County Attorney David Leavitt asked them to ignore a state law during a traffic stop in 2018 involving his handyman Dale Bowles.

The accusation, this time from law enforcement, is just the latest in a series of ethical questions involving Leavitt.

Last month, the FOX 13 News Investigates team spoke with more than a half-dozen past and present members of the Utah County Attorney’s Office who were “deeply concerned” with what they described as unethical behavior by their boss, when they felt they were asked to “go easy” on Bowles.

Utah County Attorney accused of urging staff to drop charges against his handyman

Leavitt is also the subject of a civil lawsuit after he dismissed a felony stalking charge against Mark Stewart Allen, a small campaign donor who also served an LDS mission with Leavitt’s brother.

For years, Bowles has been in and out of the Utah County Jail for many of the same charges – driving under the influence and driving on a suspended license.

“He’s an addict,” said Sgt. Spencer Cannon of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. “He’s got a real problem, and he needs to get ahold of it, but he’s having a hard time doing that.”

On November 18, 2018, deputies found Bowles did nothing criminal. He was simply in the passenger seat when the female driver was arrested on drug charges.

Deputies described the traffic stop as “routine,” until they got a phone call from Bowles’ boss.

“The deputy took the phone and talked to this person, and he told him his name is David Leavitt and asked him if he knew who he was,” Cannon said. “I don’t know how it was intended, but it just seemed unusual. Mr. Leavitt had been elected Utah County Attorney but hadn’t yet been sworn in.”

In a phone call with FOX 13, Deputy Brock Nelson said Leavitt asked him to not impound the car.

Legal community criticizes Utah County Attorney for case involving brother’s LDS mission companion

Deputies determined impounding the car is required by state law, so they ignored Leavitt’s requests.

“I just shook my head. I was in disbelief,” Nelson said. “I wouldn’t say I was threatened, but I would say (Leavitt) was trying to use his position inappropriately to help these people out.”

Linda F. Smith, an attorney and member of the Utah State Bar Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee said she agrees with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, that Leavitt becoming involved in the traffic stop was inappropriate.

“It’s a potential case, and certainly (Leavitt) has an interest in this potential case,” Smith said. “He shouldn’t be representing the defendant when he’s the Utah County Attorney.”

Nineteen days prior to the publication of this story, FOX 13 News sent an email to Leavitt’s spokesperson asking for an explanation. Leavitt has not responded despite multiple follow up emails, text messages, and phone calls.

However, in an interview on January 12, Leavitt addressed different concerns involving his relationship with Bowles. Leavitt stated he has spoken with sheriff’s deputies “several” times during traffic stops on Bowles’ behalf, including once while running for Utah Attorney General.

“Have I done anything wrong? Not at all,” Leavitt said. “Dale Bowles is a nonviolent guy who was just trying to get to work.”

Leavitt said he has “enemies” at the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, who unfairly “target” Bowles.

“Dale Bowles became the target for people because Dale Bowles was associated with me,” Leavitt said.

“If (Bowles) feels like he has a target on his back, we didn’t put it there. He would be the one who put it there by his behavior,” Cannon said. “It's not bad police work to do that, to protect society from people who are known to drive illegally or to drive impaired... If that’s how you define a target on his back, then yeah, Dale Bowles has a target on his back, but we didn’t put it there.”

Cannon disputed Leavitt’s characterization of Bowles as a victim.

“(When you have a suspended license), that means you’ve got to either walk, ride a bike, roller skate, roller blade, take your hoverboard, take an Uber, take a Lyft, ride a horse, bum a ride from a friend, but don’t get behind the wheel of a car,” Cannon said. “Giving somebody a break is not a bad thing, but the further they go along in the system and the more they show that they’re unwilling to change, the less of a break they ought to get.”

In January 2022, deputies said they arrested Bowles on two separate occasions – in both cases on suspicion of driving under the influence and driving on a suspended license. So far, records show Bowles has not been charged for an arrest that took place on January 6, 2022.

The Utah County Attorney’s Office charged Bowles with multiple misdemeanors for an arrest that took place on January 26, 2022.

“He had hidden (fentanyl) inside his body and it was found inside the jail,” Cannon said.

Deputies said, when Leavitt’s office screened the case, they were shocked prosecutors only charged Bowles with misdemeanors and not a felony.

When asked whether they felt Bowles received special treatment from Leavitt or his staff, they said they were not sure.

“We don’t always agree with the charges that the Utah County Attorney does,” Cannon said, “but sometimes their decisions make less sense than others.”

In a phone call with FOX 13 News, Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith said he felt a large number of criminals have been treated too leniently since Leavitt took office.

“I don’t agree with the way David Leavitt does things. I don’t agree with his policies,” Smith said. “He’s killing us in Utah County.”

Cannon said he felt the latest DUI cases “probably” should have been given to another prosecuting agency’s office, due to the appearance of a conflict of interest.

In 2020, Bowles was arrested on suspicion of possession of meth. In that case, Leavitt decided it would have been a conflict of interest for his office to prosecute. The case is being handled by the Salt Lake County Attorney’s Office.

For unknown reasons, Leavitt has chosen not to do the same for the fentanyl case.

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